Michigan Moves to Amend Surrogacy Laws Amidst Parental Rights Controversy


Rachael Lang and her husband have the same last name as their biological daughter but are not included on her birth certificate. Instead, it is named after a surrogate who carried Lang’s daughter as a result of her previous cancer diagnosis.

Michigan’s restriction on paid surrogacy contracts, the only state with such a statute, has forced the couple to wait over a year to adopt their biological daughter.

State senators voted Tuesday to amend that, intending to make it simpler for people like the Langs to be recognized as legal parents of children born through surrogacy.

“Whenever I fill out papers for her, they question if I am a parent or guardian. You must check either one or both boxes. I’m not sure what to look into because, while I’m her biological parent, I’m also her legal guardian,” Lang explained. “So that just makes me feel very conflicted and very sad about what I am on a piece of paper to her.”

According to the governor’s office, Michigan is presently the only state in the US that has criminalized surrogacy contracts. Republicans approved a law in 1988 that makes participating in a compensated surrogacy contract a misdemeanor or crime.

An arrangement formed between a woman who acts as a surrogate and subsequently passes over parental rights to the kid is “void and unenforceable,” according to current law. This means that the intended parents must go via a judge or the adoption process to obtain custody.

Parents who testified in favor of amending the legislation said they tried for months, if not years, to adopt their child born through a surrogate.

“Decisions about whether, when, and how to have children are extremely personal. “Politicians should not be dictating the terms of these private decisions, which should be left to a family, their doctor, and those they love and trust,” Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer stated.

Whitmer, who has stated that she will sign the package, emphasized that the law was critical because “other states make it harder for you to start a family.” The nine-bill package also includes provisions for other forms of assisted reproduction, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF).

The proposal was filed in a Senate committee just weeks after the Alabama Supreme Court declared that frozen embryos are deemed infants under state law, forcing some clinics in the state to halt IVF treatments. Alabama’s governor has already signed legislation to protect doctors from potential legal exposure as a result of the court verdict.

In Michigan, Tammy and Jordan Meyers were among those urging lawmakers to make the move following a two-year court struggle.

In 2021, the couple filed a pre-birth order for custody of twins they were expecting through a gestational carrier. The twins came before the order was approved, and although they are the couple’s biological offspring, a judge refused them custody.

“If I’m being honest about it, we missed out on a lot of moments with our babies,” Tammy Myers, the mother, said. “We should have focused on the babies who came safely, even though they were eight weeks early. We weren’t immersed in the miracle. We were living through the horror.”

After a 23-month legal battle, the Myers were granted the right to adopt their twins in late 2022.

Tammy Myers watched from the balcony above the Senate rooms on Tuesday as senators debated the deal. Before the vote, Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks brought attention to Myers, who later received a standing ovation from senators.

“There is no good reason that parents such as Tammy and Jordan should have to adopt their babies,” Brinks said.

According to the bills passed Tuesday, an individual can enter into a surrogacy arrangement provided they are at least 21 years old, have previously given birth to a child, have had medical and mental health evaluations, and have independent legal representation.

The Michigan Fertility Alliance praised the Senate’s ratification of the legislation on Tuesday, stating that it assures that all “children born in Michigan by fertility treatments and surrogacy have access to a secure legal relationship with their parents.”

On Tuesday, several Republicans spoke out against the bundle of legislation before the Senate vote, and two Republicans voted with the Democratic majority on all nine of them. Sen. Thomas Albert, a Republican, said the proposals might “open Pandora’s Box” and “fundamentally redefine the family.”

During a speech in support of the proposals, Democratic state Sen. Stephanie Chang stated that they are about “promoting families” and guaranteeing “that Michiganders can fulfill their dreams of parenthood.”

The Lang family, who are still trying to adopt their one-year-old, is among many who could potentially expand their family under the new rule. Rachael Lang stated in an interview before the vote that she and her husband were so broken by the process that they promised never to try for another child through surrogacy again.

“But now, you know, if it does go through, we would consider working with a surrogate again,” Lang said.

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