OLYMPIA, Wash. - The Senate on Tuesday gutted a contentious bill seeking to make Washington one of a handful of states to allow paid surrogacy, but supporters insist the move buys them time to salvage the measure.
The bill addresses various legal issues related to parentage, including protections for domestic partners. As originally written, it would allow surrogates and intended parents to enter into paid contracts.
Currently, surrogates in Washington may be compensated only for indirect expenses, such as medical or legal bills.
Less than an hour before a legislative deadline Tuesday, the Senate approved the overall bill, but also passed an amendment striking all references to surrogacy contracts.
During the debate leading up to the vote, lawmakers expressed concern that paid surrogacy would commercialize pregnancy, with some comparing it to the illegal trafficking of organs, and even prostitution.
"When you put money into the mix, that becomes problematic and there is the potential for abuse because of the financial motive," said Sen. James Hargrove, D-Hoquiam.
But Rep. Jamie Pedersen, the bill's main sponsor, said he was not disappointed by the Senate's action because it kept the bill alive, albeit in an altered form.
"To get us to the point where we needed to be to move out of the Senate, we needed to retreat - I hope temporarily - on surrogacy," the Seattle Democrat said Tuesday evening. "The bill and subject matter are now eligible to be discussed until the (April 24) end of session."
The bill now returns to the House, where it was adopted last month with the surrogacy provisions intact.
Pedersen said he's hopeful lawmakers can reach an agreement on compensated surrogacy, though he acknowledged that "some people fundamentally will never be able to accept it."
The bill lays out a long list of contractual requirements designed to protect both the birthmothers and the intended parents, supporters say. What's more, they say, it would help regulate a practice that is already taking place behind closed doors or out of state.
"Because we don't have paid surrogacy, (intended parents) are going to Oregon or California where there are more options," said Democratic Sen. Sharon Nelson of Vashon Island.