Surrogacy, which provides one way for infertile people, same-sex couples, and single individuals to become parents, is permitted in most states in the United States. In New York, however, surrogacy contracts are void and unenforceable according to a 1992 law. The state legislature is now considering a bill that would permit and regulate surrogacy. On May 24, 2018, Rachael Hancock’18 appeared before a legislative committee to share findings on the issue from Cornell Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic. Click here to view Rachel Hancock’s testimony.
In 2017, Professor Sital Kalantry of the International Human Rights Clinic: Policy Advocacy joined Professors Aparna Chandra and Mrinal Satish of the Transnational Human Rights Seminar at the National Law University in Delhi (NLU-Delhi) in creating a “global classroom” where their students could collaborate in studying surrogacy from a transnational and comparative legal perspective.
One team of Cornell students traveled to New Delhi to conduct fieldwork alongside their NLU-Delhi counterparts, with whom they created a memo of preliminary findings for the Parliament of India. Meanwhile, another team, including Hancock, interviewed compensated-surrogacy stakeholders in the United States and produced a legislative policy report on the Child-Parent Security Act.
Currently in committee in the New York State Assembly, the Child-Parent Security Act would repeal the state’s 1992 prohibition, make surrogacy agreements enforceable, and permit surrogates to be compensated for the gestational care they provide.
Testifying before the Assembly Standing Committee on Judiciary and Assembly Standing Committee on Health, Hancock laid out the main finding of the clinic’s report. She noted that New York is an outlier among U.S. states in not enforcing surrogacy contracts. New Yorkers continue to pursue surrogacy despite the law, she said, but they face considerable uncertainty in doing so.
Hancock also observed that many of the concerns that motivated the 1992 ban on compensated surrogacy had since become less relevant, remained unsubstantiated by any empirical studies, or been refuted by subsequent research. For instance, she said, there had been concern about lack of informed consent among surrogates at the time, but a 2008 survey found that ninety-nine percent of surrogates felt that they had adequate information upon entering into surrogacy agreements.
Hancock pointed out that a significant number of countries have working frameworks for compensated surrogacy and that the implementation of surrogacy is supported by several international human rights treaties. She told the committee that the International Human Rights Clinic had concluded that compensated surrogacy should be permitted and regulated.
Upon the completion of Hancock’s testimony, Assemblyman Richard N. Gottfried, a Cornell University alumnus, commented, “You’ve done the school proud.”
Says Hancock, “It was really great to share the findings of our report with the New York State Assembly and to hear their questions about the impact of lifting New York’s ban on surrogacy. Our clinic worked hard to examine surrogacy from many different perspectives; we looked at ethics, contract law, human rights, feminist jurisprudence, health considerations, and geopolitical dynamics before writing and publishing our report.”
She adds, “It was heartening to see that the New York State Assembly and the sponsors of this bill are taking a similar interest and care in modernizing New York’s law on gestational surrogacy.”