NEW YORK, FEB. 3 -- The New Jersey court ruling today striking down the nation's most publicized surrogate motherhood contract apparently did little to curb the enthusiasm of those who arrange for women to bear babies for infertile couples.
Steven C. Litz, director of Surrogate Mothers Inc. in Indianapolis, said the ruling "might on its face appear to be a ruling against surrogate mothering. But I don't think it will have any negative effect."
But Daniel Callahan, director of the Hastings Center, a New York think tank, said the ruling would have "a chilling effect" on surrogacy. "When people think of using surrogates," he said, "the question that will now cross their minds is, will a court uphold the contract?"
Callahan said fees are "a decisive element" and scoffed at suggestions that women will continue to bear children for others out of altruism. "It seems that it takes $10,000 or so to trigger that altruism," he said.
The New Jersey ruling that equates paid surrogacy with "baby selling" does not apply to other states. But Callahan said the New Jersey court is widely respected on social issues and that the ruling follows a similar decision in a Michigan case last month.
In that case, a county judge ruled that a surrogate contract signed by Laurie Yates, a Michigan woman fighting to keep the twins she bore for an Arkansas couple, "denigrates human dignity" and should not be enforced.
A probate judge in Marion County, Ind., also has ruled against surrogate contracts, Litz said. But he said his center avoids the legal complication by having its adoptions approved by courts in other counties.
"I'm the first one to tell my clients that surrogate contracts are probably unenforceable," Litz said. "But in the 99 percent of times when there's no dispute, the couple gets the child and the surrogate gets her fee and everything is fine."
Elizabeth Tilles, program coordinator for the Center for Surrogate Parenting in Los Angeles, questioned the court's reasoning. "It's not baby selling," she said. "You're compensating the mother for her time and energy, for going through a pregnancy. You're not buying a baby."
Tilles said she would welcome state regulation of surrogacy practices. More than two dozen state legislatures are considering such bills in the wake of the Baby M case, but none has adopted a comprehensive law.
Noel Keane, a Michigan attorney who arranged Mary Beth Whitehead-Gould's surrogacy contract, told the Associated Press that "unless surrogacy is banned nationwide, there may always be an avenue to do surrogate parenting."