Assembly votes to authorize gestational surrogacy

By MICHAEL CATALINI AP NJ State Wire

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - For the second time in three years the Democrat-led Legislature on Thursday sent Republican Gov. Chris Christie a bill establishing a legal framework for gestational carriers.

Christie vetoed the same bill the Assembly passed on Thursday in 2012. At the time, he said the measure raises "serious and significant issues."

Democratic lawmakers say views change over time and add that the previous bill got only 41 yes votes - the minimum for passage - compared to 46 votes on Thursday.

"It's time to try again and see if he has any other concerns other than New Jersey isn't ready for it," said Democratic Assemblywoman and bill sponsor Valerie Vainieri Huttle.

The bill authorizes agreements between the intended parents and the women who would carry the child and who would not be genetically related to the infant. The bill also requires surrogates to be at least 21 years of age, to have already given birth to at least one child and have completed medical examinations.

The bill also says intended parents would have to pay for "reasonable expenses," such as medical and hospital care incurred because of the surrogacy.

Surrogacy is not barred in New Jersey but there is no state law that addresses the practice. There's a gray area because of this, supporters say.

A spokesman for Christie declined to comment on the bill.

In his 2012 veto message, the governor said serious inquiry and consensus would be needed before moving ahead with such a bill and that the threshold hadn't been met.

"Permitting adults to contract with others regarding a child in such a manner unquestionably raises serious and significant issues," Christie had said.

Surrogacy law in New Jersey stretches back to the 1988 case of "Baby M," in which the state Supreme Court ruled that a surrogate impregnated with the intended father's sperm but who contracted to give up her baby after birth was legally the child's mother.

Supporters of the current measure though say these cases are different because technology now permits women to carry children to whom they are not genetically related.

"To me, it's providing those safeguards to keep up with new technology - because it is happening," Vainieri Huttle said.