Massachusetts Bill Proposes Allowing Women to Sell Unborn Babies

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On June 12, the Massachusetts House is set to vote on a bill that would permit mothers to exchange their children for money, effectively engaging in baby-selling, under the guise of “parentage equality.”

The “Parentage Equality” bill aims to redefine parenthood. Traditionally, parenthood is recognized either on a natural biological basis or through adoption, which provides a child who has suffered loss with a safe and loving home. This bill redefines parenthood based on a “person’s intent to be a parent of a child.” As a result, it removes all mention of mothers and fathers from parentage law, replacing these crucial familial roles with gender-neutral language.

Furthermore, and most alarmingly, under H.4672, Massachusetts would allow for commercial surrogacy both in cases where the woman carrying the child is genetically unrelated to the child and in scenarios where she exchanges her biological child for money.

The ‘Parentage Equality’ Act Legalizes Baby-Selling

Surrogacy is inherently exploitative. It commodifies women and treats children as products. This bill, in particular, enables some of the most extreme arrangements. Most commercial surrogacy laws and agencies restrict contracts to cases where the woman carrying the child is not genetically related to the child. However, this bill sanctions genetic surrogacy arrangements, allowing a woman to accept money in exchange for her biological child.

In any other context, if a woman accepts money for relinquishing her parental claim on her child, it is considered baby-selling. Under this bill, she can do just that with a valid surrogacy contract, even if the arrangement with the purchasing parents is made after she becomes pregnant, as long as the contract is validated before the child is born.

Under H. 4672, the following scenario would be perfectly legal: a woman undergoes the physical and mental health screenings required to become a surrogate, becomes pregnant via sperm from a sperm bank, and then announces on a surrogacy forum or social media group that she is not only available as a surrogate but already pregnant.

She could then “match” with the couple willing to pay the highest “payment of consideration,” essentially auctioning off her child. If the surrogacy agreement meets the bill’s requirements, it could be validated by a court and viewed as not only permissible but legally binding. However, if the same woman becomes pregnant and decides to make an agreement with a couple to adopt her child while insisting on payment, she would be prosecuted for baby-selling.

The differences between these two scenarios are merely semantic, yet one would be legal and praised as “compassionate family building,” and if she hands the baby over to a same-sex couple, it would be seen as a step toward ending discrimination. By contrast, the other scenario would be condemned as child trafficking, despite producing the same result.

No matter what semantic arguments surrogacy proponents use, accepting money in exchange for a child is always wrong.

Surrogacy Laws Have a History of Abuse

Before dismissing the above scenario as far-fetched, consider that we have already seen the sale of children occur under the guise of surrogacy. In 2011, three California women were convicted of running an illegal baby-selling ring posing as a surrogacy agency.

Although the women broke California’s surrogacy laws, the existence of legal surrogacy in California allowed them to operate undetected for years. As Dr. David Smolin has pointed out, this case would not have been possible without California’s surrogacy law allowing the names of unrelated adults to be listed on a child’s birth certificate without any adoption procedure.

A critical aspect of the scandal was that the women filed fraudulent court documents claiming the agreements had been secured before pregnancy. The FBI’s statement on the case reiterated that a surrogacy agreement must be in place before beginning surrogacy. Imagine the potential for exploitation under a law that allows such agreements after pregnancy has begun.

Potential for Money in Exchange for Sex

Even more troubling, Section 28N(d) of the bill addresses cases where a child of surrogacy is alleged to have been conceived not through assisted reproduction but naturally. In this case, the court would order a genetic test to determine the child’s parentage. However, the bill states:

[I]f the second genetic source is an intended parent, the court, in its sole discretion, may determine parentage under sections 1 through 27 of this chapter. Unless the genetic surrogacy agreement provides otherwise, the genetic surrogate is not entitled to any non-expense related compensation paid for acting as a surrogate if the child was not conceived by assisted reproduction. [Emphasis added.]

In other words, at the court’s discretion, a surrogacy agreement could be considered valid if a woman agrees to conceive the child naturally with the intended father, essentially by having sex with him. By stipulating “unless the genetic surrogacy agreement provides otherwise,” the bill leaves open the possibility of a surrogate being paid beyond expense-related compensation in such a scenario.

Thus, this bill could allow a woman to accept money for sex as long as she conceives and then relinquishes her parental rights so the father could raise the child—combining both prostitution and child trafficking in one clause.

What further abuses could this bill enable? Forced surrogacy is not a hypothetical concern. Unseen exploitation of both women and children could occur as long as the flimsy requirements for a surrogacy agreement are met.

Women and children are not commodities. Children have the right to be born free, not bought and sold. No amount of saccharine wording can hide the fact that the “Parentage Equality” bill monetizes women’s bodies and turns children into products. The women and children of Massachusetts deserve better.

Patience Griswold
Patience Griswold
Patience Griswold is the engagement coordinator at Them Before Us, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting children’s rights, especially their right to their mother and father.

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