New York's Bumpy Path to Legalize Surrogacy

Today, after a years-long battle about compensated gestational surrogacy — when a woman agrees to carry a child for someone else for a fee — is finally legal in New York. The state was just one of three in the country (the other two being Michigan and Louisiana) to criminalize the act of entering into a compensated gestational surrogacy contract.

In the last couple of sessions, Governor Andrew Cuomo took up the cause of surrogacy legalization in New York, which had long been advocated for by State Senator Brad Holyman, a gay dad via surrogacy who sponsored the legalization bill.

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"My husband and I had our two daughters through surrogacy," Hoylman told Gay City News last year after his bill passed. "But we had to travel 3,000 miles away to California in order to do it. As a gay dad, I'm thrilled parents like us and people struggling with infertility will finally have the chance to create their own families through surrogacy here in New York." 

In the Assembly, the bill was sponsored by Assemblymember Amy Paulin, who has been public with her experiences with infertility. "This law will [give intended parents] the opportunity to have a family in New York and not travel around the country, incurring exorbitant costs simply because they want to be parents," Paulin said. It will "bring New York law in line with the needs of modern families."

Legalization has come close to fruition several times in the past, but has always, until now, come up short. In 2019, the effort stalled after opponents, including several Democrats, successfully argued that the bill didn't go far enough to protect women who serve as surrogates. The bill that goes into effect today includes a provision known as a surrogate "bill of rights" — the first of its kind in the country — which, among other things, guarantees surrogates the right to independent legal representation, comprehensive medical coverage, and to be able to decide whether to terminate or continue a pregnancy.

The legalization battle in New York, one of the last, and largest, states to legalize the practice, attracted some big names to both sides of the campaign. For instance, "Watch What Happens Live" host Andy Cohen, a gay dad via surrogacy, actively campaigned for the bill’s passage. "I came to New York years ago so I could live my life openly, but I had to leave New York to start my family," Cohen said after the bill was passed. "New York has long been a leader in advancing the interests of women and the LGBTQ community, and it's time to keep that tradition alive."

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