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Legislator Pushes to Decriminalize Surrogacy Agreements in Washington, D.C.

January 9, 2012

A new piece of legislation has been introduced by Councilmember David Catania that would decriminalize surrogacy agreements for couples in need of third party assisted reproduction.

As per the District of Columbia Code 16-401 and 402, both traditional and gestational surrogacy agreements in Washington, D.C. are currently prohibited. Violation of this law may result in a fine of up to $10,000 and a prospective jail sentence of one year. The statute only applies to surrogacy agreements, not the actual act of surrogacy.

Traditional surrogacy involves the eggs of a surrogate and sperm of the intended father or sperm donor. The resulting embryo is then carried by the surrogate. In this instance, the child shares a biological connection to the surrogate.

Gestational surrogacy differs in that the egg does not belong to the surrogate; therefore, the child is not biologically related to the surrogate. The egg of the intended mother or an egg donor is combined with the sperm of the intended father or sperm donor. The pregnancy is carried by the gestational surrogate.

The purpose of a surrogacy agreement is to allow each party, the intended parents and the surrogate, to clearly outline their intentions, responsibilities, custody rights if applicable, and any associated fees. Catania feels surrogacy agreements allow couples to pursue greater family building options without the fear of legal repercussions. “District laws should encourage responsible parenting, not create obstacles for those hoping to raise children but who are unable to do so by traditional means. This legislation will legalize surrogacy parentage agreements, which are increasingly desirable or necessary options for a number of our residents,” he declared to the press.

Legalizing surrogacy agreements will allow many more couples to pursue family building via third party assisted reproduction where they had previously shied away due to legal uncertainties. Surrogacy agreement legislation has been introduced in the past. The Surrogacy Act of 1987 proposed mental health counseling, mandatory forfeiture of parental rights by the surrogate, and prohibited fees for surrogacy.

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