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Lawmakers Seek To Streamline, Regulate Surrogacy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- State lawmakers are looking at how Minnesota couples should be able use a surrogate carrier to have a baby.

There are currently no laws regulating this industry in the state, but there are best practices most clinics use.

A group of Democrats, including Rep. John Lesch and Sen. Sandra Pappas, both of St. Paul, introduced the Minnesota Gestational Carrier Act Tuesday at the capitol surrounded by supporters from the community.

The lawmakers said the bill would streamline the process and protect everyone involved.

But critics said it does not address one major divisive topic -- whether a surrogate should get paid.

Jessica Zalusky, of Elko, and her 5-year-old daughter, Annika, joined supporters of the legislation Tuesday.

Zalusky suffered a massive stroke in 2008 and was then considered too high-risk to carry her child.

After much thought, Zalusky said she and her husband decided to use a gestational surrogate named Shannon Dietz.

Dietz, who is also a mother, addressed the room at the Capitol.

"It was an amazing experience," Dietz said.

"We are just happy we had that opportunity so we could have our little Annika," Zalusky said.

But Zalusky said the legal process was grueling because of a lack of legislation to streamline the process.

Zalusky had to pay to adopt her own child once it was born since the carrier was considered the mother, legally.

The Minnesota Gestational Carrier Act would regulate the industry to uphold current best practices like mental and physical health evaluations for all parties involved and clarify the status of the parents so they do not have to adopt their own child.

But critics like Stephani Liesmaki, of the faith-based Minnesota Family Council, want any legislation about surrogacy not to allow for payment beyond reasonable expenses.

"When profit is introduced into the surrogacy industry, it opens a door for the commodification of women and the vulnerability of children who become products for sale," Liesmaki said.

The Minnesota Family Council released this statement Tuesday concerning their stance on the bill:

"Minnesota Family Council believes that the proposed bill dismisses important regulations for the protection of women and children. Compensation must be banned and any proposed surrogacy legislation must additionally prevent the exploitation of women by making sure surrogate candidates are not on governmental financial assistance and that only single-embryo transfers are permitted, as is standard to the industry. These regulations employ basic protections for women and children."

The Democrats' bill does not address compensation, leaving it up for individual planning and negotiation.

"Our feeling is if everyone else is being compensated -- the lawyers, the clinic, doctors -- why shouldn't the person carrying the child be compensated?" Pappas said.

This bill has not yet been scheduled for any committee hearings.

A similar bill made it to Gov. Tim Pawlenty's desk in 2008, but Pawlenty vetoed it in part because the compensation component was not limited.

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