Whitney Watts

Two years ago, Whitney Watts of Columbia gave birth to twins conceived through in vitro fertilization for an infertile Boston couple. (Baltimore Sun photo by Algerina Perna / March 26, 2013)

When she was 23, already having borne a son of her own with her husband, Watts said she was matched with a Boston couple who remain close friends.

"It's just such a close bond to form with the intended parents," she said.

Beyond the protections the legislation could bring, Watts would like to see the state give validation to her experience.

"It helps to bring light to the fact that the intended parents and gestational carriers are real people who want to have a real family," she said.

That legal validation is precisely what opponents such as the Maryland Catholic Conference object to.

Nancy Paltell, an associate director of the Catholic conference, said the state should not facilitate such agreements — one of the bill's stated goals. The Catholic Church would rather see the state make such contracts legally unenforceable, she said.

"Nobody's really thinking about the kids," she said. "They talk a lot about all the parties that signed the contract. Well, the child didn't."

In particular, Paltell objects to the practice of paying a stranger to carry a couple's baby to term. "We were really, really opposed to paying women to become gestational carriers because that's where the exploitation comes in," she said.

The bill prohibits the inclusion of compensation in gestational agreements but allows broadly defined "ancillary" payments for such things as intangible risks.

"This 'ancillary expenses' is a catch-all thing, which means you're paying for services," Paltell said. "This bill is a fraud in terms of claiming to ban paying a gestational carrier for services rendered."

Supporters of the bill say that in addition to allowing the ancillary payments, the measure would protect gestational carriers in a variety of circumstances, including the death or separation of the intended parents. The legislation also could help infertile couples by providing assurances they will be recognized as legal parents even before their babies are born.

Hinson said the legislation simply recognizes reality.

"Surrogacy exists," she said. "For so many people, surrogacy is the only answer. It's the only way they can have a child."


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