Assemblywomen Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Annette Quijano and Mila Jasey have sponsored a bill to regulate the new reproductive technology identified as “gestational carriers.”   Seemingly out of author Margaret Atwood’s cautionary story The Handmaid’s Tale, the New Jersey Assembly’s Women & Children Committee introduced bill (A-1704), entitled the New Jersey Gestational Carrier Agreement Act.  The Act would require written contracts between intended parent(s) and a woman who agrees to carry and give birth to a child for an infertile family.  Gestational carriers are different from surrogates because a “gestational carrier” is not genetically related to the child.  Reproductive technology has improved to such a degree that an embryo from one woman can be transferred into another woman’s body.

Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-Union) explained that “For women and men struggling to have a baby, a gestational carrier can be the answer to the family they have longed for.  This bill would provide a legal framework for gestational carrier agreements in order to protect all parties involved – from the woman who has agreed to carry the baby to the intended parents, and most importantly, the children.”  The bill would permit gestational carrier agreements that stipulate that the intended parents become the legal parents and the woman, who acts as the gestational carrier, relinquishes all parental rights or future obligations.

The law would require a gestational carrier to be at least 21 years of age and previously have given birth to at least one child of her own.  Additionally, these women must complete medical and psychological evaluations and retain their own attorney; however, the legal fees could be paid by the intended parents.

Furthermore, under this bill, intended parents will be required to complete a psychological evaluation as to their suitability to participate in a gestational carrier agreement.   They must retain an attorney to provide legal advice about the contract terms and legal consequences of the parties’ agreement.  The gestational carrier agreements must be in writing would allow those people who are single, married, in a civil union, or domestic partnership, to be either intended parents or gestational carriers.

The legal procedure would begin after a gestational carrier becomes pregnant.  The intended parent(s) would file a complaint in Superior Court for an “Order of Parentage.”  A parent and child relationship established by gestational carrier agreement then becomes the basis for a Child Support Order.  Intended parent(s) would then be legally obligated to support the child.

There are strict provisions for the confidentiality of gestational carrier agreements.  All records and filings related to a gestational carrier agreement are to remain confidential and unavailable to the public.  Only a child born subject to this agreement, who is at least 18 years of age, can file a written request for this information.

The bill would take effect immediately upon enactment and apply to any gestational carrier agreements entered into on or after the effective date.

Sherri Ruggieri is the managing editor of Empire State News. A practicing attorney for over 20 years, Ms. Ruggieri is also chairperson of Edison Township’s Planning Board. Additionally, she has served as a college professor, with nearly a decade of experience in teaching law and political science courses.