To: Senate Human Services Committee
From: Christopher T. Dodson, Executive Director
Subject: SB 2081 Medical Assistance for Gestational Carriers
Date: January 14, 2013

The North Dakota Catholic Conference opposes Senate Bill 2081.

The Catholic Church opposes surrogacy agreements as contrary to the dignity of the human person and human procreation. Moreover, we fear that the commercialization of surrogacy denigrates the dignity of women, especially those who are poor.

For those reasons we support efforts to discourage surrogacy and its abuse. As with all policies, however, those efforts cannot contravene the basic rights and dignity of human persons, especially the poorest among us. We have always opposed policies that discriminate against pregnant women and their unborn children solely because of the circumstances that led to the pregnancy. Senate Bill 2081 is such a policy.

The purpose of providing medical assistance for pregnancy-related services to lower-income women is two-fold: to provide needed care to the mother and to ensure that the unborn child receives basic medical care during the gestational period. We may not like the reasons the woman became pregnant, but so long as she is pregnant and economically in need, she and her unborn child deserve the same access to government assistance as any other woman and unborn child with the same financial need.

There seems to be an assumption behind the bill that gestational carriers will receive renumeration after the child is born. Surrogacy agreements, however, are unenforceable in North Dakota. (N.D.C.C. sec. 14-18-05.)1 The surrogate mother might not ever be paid and there is no certainty that the intended parents will eventually adopt the child. Moreover, some surrogates act for altruistic reasons, especially for family members.

In other words, with regards to Medicaid eligibility, the gestational carrier and the unborn child stand in the same position as any other woman and unborn child with the same financial needs. The state cannot presume to know, and should not therefore consider, the future economic prospects of the woman and, as with all other potential recipients, should not discriminate against the woman and child because of the circumstances of the conception.

While we appreciate the desire to prevent abuse of the Medicaid system, it cannot be based on conjecture or come at the expense of the unborn child who is not responsible for the circumstances of his or her conception. We urge a Do Not Pass recommendation on Senate Bill 2081.

1 North Dakota Century Code section 14-18-05 states:
Any agreement in which a woman agrees to become a surrogate or to relinquish that woman's rights and duties as parent of a child conceived through assisted conception is void.The surrogate, however, is the mother of a resulting child and the surrogate's husband, if a party to the agreement, is the father of the child. If the surrogate's husband is not a party to the agreement or the surrogate is unmarried, paternity of the child is governed by chapter 14-20.

North Dakota law makes an exception to the presumption of parentage in cases where the surrogate is implanted with an embryo that was conceived through the gametes of both intended parents, but any other aspects of the agreement are still unenforceable.