For the second time in three years, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoed the New Jersey Gestational Carrier Agreement Act. This act is intended to clarify the rights and contractual responsibilities of aspiring childless couples and the surrogates they hire as gestational carriers for their children, as well as protect the child in the event that either side reneges on the prior agreement. Current law does not “take into account this advance in reproductive technology.”
The latest version of the bill the NJ Legislature sent to Christie is identical to the first one the governor vetoed. For my analysis of NJ’s “Gestational Carrier” bill, read my Objective Standard blog post of June 2012, New Jersey's Surrogate Motherhood Bill and its Vicious Opposition.
As NJ.com’s Susan K. Livio reports, Christie’s reason for vetoing the latest bill is that “None of the ‘significant ethical and moral concerns raised by a government-enforced system of agreements to procreate’ have been addressed, according to the veto statement.” What “concerns” did the governor have? As Livio reported in August 2012:
According to the governor's statement explaining the veto obtained by The [New Jersey] Star-Ledger, "Permitting adults to contract with others regarding a child in such a manner unquestionably raises serious and significant issues."
"In contrast to traditional surrogacy, a gestational surrogate birth does not use the egg of the carrier," the governor wrote. "In this scenario, the gestational carrier lacks any genetic connection to the baby, and in some cases, it is feasible that neither parent is genetically related to the child. Instead, children born to gestational surrogates are linked to their parents by contract."
"While some all applaud the freedom to explore these new, and sometimes necessary, arranged births, others will note the profound change in the traditional beginnings of the family that this bill will enact. I am not satisfied that these questions have been sufficiently studied by the Legislature at this time," according to the statement.
What is there to study? That the gestational carrier method is new, different from the old? So what? That it involves a contract? So what? That some “others will note the profound change in the traditional beginnings of the family?” So what? Let them note what they like. No “other” has to engage in this new, “non-traditional” way of starting a family, if they disapprove. What busybody “others” have the right to stand in the way of couples seeking this new avenue to familyhood? And that’s the question Christie doesn’t answer—the why. Why keep antiquated legal roadblocks to gestational carrier contracts in place? Whose rights do the parties to gestational carrier agreements violate? No one’s. And that’s the point. Consenting adults have a right to voluntarily contract to mutual advantage, and as long as no intended or actual rights violations are evident, the government has a duty to uphold and enforce the contracts.
By Christie’s standards, this bill could never get enacted. How does the legislature “study”—i.e., reconcile—the irrational prejudices of the alleged defenders of “the traditional beginnings of the family” with those who “applaud the freedom to explore these new . . . arranged births?” Was any reconciliation possible between proponents of the tradition of slavery and those seeking freedom for the slaves, which is every human being’s rightful due? By Christie’s standards, slavery could never have been abolished.
The reason for Christie’s latest veto is no less vacuous that his rationalization for his first veto of the bill. As Livio reported in June, Christie, citing his prior concerns, said “I take seriously the need to guard against any societal deprecation of the miracle of life.” The NJ Star-Ledger correctly ridiculed Christie's ridiculous rationalization in an editorial titled Christie's empty talk about the "miracle of life". The Star-Ledger wrote:
Please. Surrogacy is perfectly legal in New Jersey, and hundreds of babies are being born this way already. What does this veto have to do with protecting the "miracle of life"?
Christie simply wants to ingratiate himself with conservatives who disapprove of the entire concept of surrogacy, because of their personal religious beliefs. That's not protecting babies. It's pandering.
I left these comments:
While I probably can’t support every regulation written into the New Jersey Gestational Carrier Agreement Act, I wholeheartedly support the concept behind the bill. The technology behind surrogate parenting is a truly man-made miracle, and the law should catch up with these scientific advances. The proper job of government is to make laws protecting individual rights. This bill would go a long way toward protecting the rights of aspiring parents, gestational carriers, and the child.
Opposition to this bill is rooted in a broader opposition by the so-called “pro-life” conservatives with their otherworldly “miracle of life” fantasies to the intervention of human intelligence to solve the problems of human procreation. This opposition is often camouflaged as a fight against the “exploitation” of women, as if women are too stupid to exercise their fundamental right to make good choices about what is in their own best interests. These mystical conservatives are the same people that tried or are still trying to outlaw “test tube babies” (in vitro fertilization, without which two of my six grandchildren would not exist) around the world.
But here in the real world, the ability of childless couples to have children they otherwise couldn’t have thanks to gestational surrogacy is the real miracle of life. I don’t know whether Christie is pandering or not. I certainly wouldn’t put it past the Democrats to play politics with this bill. Either way, it’s a real shame that this straightforward issue is not getting resolved.
My last sentences are not really accurate. I'm convinced that the Star-Ledger is correct: Christie is pandering to the religious right. I just wanted to avoid the partisan aspect for the sake of not blurring the fundamental issues. And Christie’s pandering is of the most cowardly kind—refusing to take a stand while hiding behind vague demands for “more study.” An advocate of individual rights and free markets would have no trouble deciding on this issue.
New Jersey's Surrogate Motherhood Bill and its Vicious Opposition.