South Dakota Senate panel narrowly defeats commercial surrogacy ban

South Dakota surrogacy ban

A South Dakota Senate committee on Wednesday narrowly rejected a measure that would have criminalized commercial surrogate pregnancy agents, making it unlikely for such a ban to win approval this year.

The South Dakota Senate Health and Human Services voted down the surrogacy ban bill 4-3 after a debate pitting some families who have used surrogates for pregnancy against critics who argue the practice exploits and endangers women and babies.South Dakota

Sen. Arthur Rusch, a Republican from Vermillion, cast the deciding vote against the legislation after initially moving to approve it and send it on to the full Senate. He called it “one of the most difficult decisions that I’ve made.”

The House had previously passed the bill, which deals with the practice of having a woman being impregnated with an embryo from another couple.

The proposal would have made acting as a surrogacy agent a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail. It would have made South Dakota one of a handful of states to criminalize the practice. Lawmakers said they would be more open to regulating surrogacy rather than passing an outright ban.

Rep. Jon Hansen, the Dell Rapids Republican who introduced the bill, argued that commercial surrogacy makes women and babies vulnerable to commercial contracts.

“Human beings are not property to be bartered for,” he said.

During testimony Wednesday, supporters of the commercial ban pointed to situations in other states where commercial surrogates have had to go to court over disputes arising from the contracts. They argued that commercial surrogacy targets women who are poor and from vulnerable communities.

Jennifer Lahl, an activist against commercial surrogacy from California, said surrogate pregnancies have higher health risks than normal pregnancies and pointed to the deaths of several women who died from complications during a surrogate pregnancy.

The bill also had the support of anti-abortion groups, an influential force in the conservative state. Many surrogacy contracts address “fetal reduction,” in which one fetus may be aborted if a woman has twins or triplets. They argued that the contracts could be used to pressure women into getting an abortion.

Women from a group of families that have had children through surrogacy opposed the bill. They have been frequent visitors to the Capitol as the bill progressed through the Legislature, making their case to lawmakers.

They argued that the bill is based on worst-case scenarios, mostly from other states, and that the commercial contracts protect both the women acting as surrogates and the intended parents.

TheHour.com by Stephen Groves, February 26, 2020

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Fertility Fraud: The U.S. Is Experiencing An Explosion Of Legislation. And That’s A Good Thing

More and more cases of fertility fraud have been uncovered. And more and more lawsuits have been filed. However, each prosecution or lawsuit has faced an uphill battle.

Direct-to-consumer DNA kits have changed our reality. The wall of secrecy that was once behind conception and parenting — including adoptions, affairs, and the use of donor eggs, sperm, and embryos — is crumbling. One major facet of this reckoning with the truth has been the stark realization that many, many doctors were using their own sperm, a form of fertility fraud, to “treat” their unknowing patients.fertility fraud

Sometimes this practice was in place of “anonymous donor” sperm; sometimes, it was actually in place of the spouse or partner’s sperm. It’s pretty gross to think about. But even grosser is the complete lack of accountability for the doctors who must have known of the ethical and moral shortcomings of their actions.

The Justice System Has Been Failing Us

A doctor using his own sperm to impregnate a patient, without her knowledge or consent as to the source of the sperm, must be a crime, right? Or at least a pretty solid tort – fertility fraud? For many states, you guessed wrong. More and more cases of those doctors’ egregious practices have been uncovered. And more and more lawsuits have been filed. However, each prosecution or lawsuit has faced an uphill battle.

Take, for example, the case of Donald Cline, formerly a licensed medical doctor in Indiana. In one of the most notorious cases of fertility fraud in the United States, DNA tests have shown Cline to have used his sperm in unknowing patients, resulting in at least sixty children. When the betrayed patients and offspring sought legal remedies against Cline, they were unsuccessful. After all, the patients had consented to Cline inseminating them with sperm. Cline did plead guilty to two charges of obstruction of justice, after lying to officials about using his own sperm with patients. But that, to most victims, was not sufficient.

Time To Change The Law

Since current law has been failing the victims, many have sought, and are currently seeking, to change the law. State by state, if necessary. Last year, two successful bills were passed. One was in Indiana, unsurprisingly, as ground zero of the Cline fiasco. Another was in Texas, where Eve Wiley led the charge. (Listen to this podcast where Wiley and her believed-donor tell the twisting and fascinating tale of uncovering the truth of Wiley’s genetic history.) In Texas, without a civil cause of action due to the state’s recent tort reforms, and without a viable criminal cause of action to charge him, Wiley’s “doctor daddy” is still actively practicing medicine even today. That’s crazytown.

Now other states are following suit, and closing the legal loopholes that existed for doctors to take advantage of their patients in this most intimate of areas. And while I doubt that as many doctors are so casually using their own sperm these days, there are certainly modern horror stories involving assisted reproduction, including that of a staff member at a Utah clinic swapping out countless sperm samples with his own.

The states currently making progress in this area include my own home state of Colorado with HB20-1014 (Go, Representative Kerry Tipper!), Nebraska with LB 748, Ohio with HB 486, and Florida with SB 698. Other states, as well, appear poised to introduce their own fertility fraud legislation. While the proposed laws vary, they are consistent in their goals of ensuring or clarifying that this type of behavior by trusted medical professionals is not acceptable and not legal, and providing a path forward for justice.

AboveTheLaw.com, by Ellen Trachman, February 12, 2020

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Putin says he won’t allow for LGBTQ families or marriages in Russia

Putin

Putin told reporters that he’s considering a constitutional amendment that would ensure that all parents of children “will be dad and mum.”

Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, said to a pool of reporters on Monday that he will not allow same-sex adoption or support marriage equality  “as long as [he’s] president” – currently set to be at least to 2024.russia gay

The comments were made at a press conference regarding a state-approved commission that will consider potential changes to the Russian constitution. Putin is supposedly trying to shape Russia’s laws and constitutionality in a way that would allow him to maintain power after his current term ends.

A reporter asked if a proposal that would “add a line in the constitution defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman” would be considered. Putin replied, “We need only to think in what phrases and where to do this.”

While the question was about same-sex marriage, Putin’s response focused on ruling on the potential of LGBTQ families being legal parents.

“As far as ‘parent number 1’ and ‘parent number 2’ goes, I’ve already spoken publicly about this and I’ll repeat it again,” Putin said, “as long as I’m president this will not happen. There will be dad and mum.”

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French Senate passes bioethics law allowing lesbians to artificially procreate

French Senate

The bill passed by the French Senate is watered down but still extremely transgressive.

The French Senate adopted the draft bioethics law currently under discussion in that body by a relatively small margin of 10 votes on Tuesday. One of its most spectacular elements, the legalization of access to artificially assisted procreation for single women, including those in lesbian relationships, was confirmed, as well as the widening of possibilities for research on human embryos. Other articles of the law were modified by the Senate, which canceled some of its more shocking propositions.French Senate

Although the higher chamber in France still has a right-of-center majority, the text, which remains deeply transgressive, obtained 153 votes in its favor, while 143 senators voted against and 45 abstained. The voting was not uniform right and left — 97 of the 144 “Les Républicains” mainstream right-wing senators rejected the law presented by Emmanuel Macron’s left-wing government, while 25 voted for the text, thus bearing responsibility for its adoption.

The presidential party “La République en marche” (LREM), created for the last presidential election and not very strong in the Senate, was itself divided: six of its 24 senators voted against the text.

Almost all the 348 senators were present, a sign that the revision of France’s bioethics laws is being taken seriously. The first such law was adopted in 1994 and was already transgressive because it legalized artificial procreation and embryo selection.

From the start, it was decided that the bioethics law would be revised every five years in order to take medical and scientific progress and new techniques into account. As a matter of fact, the laws were revised over larger intervals. Each time, new possibilities for embryo research, pre-implantation diagnosis, and other such transgressions were added.

The draft bioethics law now being discussed has been substantially amended by the Senate and will therefore return before the National Assembly, probably in April. Laws are adopted definitively without a second reading in France only when adopted by both chambers in exactly the same terms.

Lifestienews.com, by Jeanne Smits, February 7, 2020

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Virginia Senate approves bill to prevent surrogates from being forced to abort multiples

Virginia Senate

The Virginia Senate unanimously approved a bill Tuesday that would prevent surrogates from either being required to or prohibited from aborting multiples in their surrogacy contracts.

The bill passed through the House of Delegates in January, and the Virginia Senate proposed an amendment that will see it sent back to the House for final approval.new Va. surrogacy

With the amendment from the Virginia Senate, the bill reads: “Any contract provision requiring [or prohibiting] an abortion or selective reduction is against the public policy of the Commonwealth and is void and unenforceable.”

TheJurist.com, by Angela Mauroni, February 5, 2020

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Dozens of anti-LGBTQ state bills already proposed in 2020, advocates warn

anti-LGBTQ state bills

Many of the anti-LGBTQ state bills focus on transgender youth, including legislation in South Dakota that would make it a felony to provide trans health care to minors.

Like most high school students, Aerin Geary does not typically pay attention to state legislation. However, the South Dakota teenager has been closely following House Bill 1057, a Republican anti-LGBTQ state bills proposal that would make it a felony for medical professionals to provide transgender health care to minors.anti-LGBTQ state bills

“This bill makes me feel scared, since this is something that affects me deeply,” Geary, 15, who identifies as nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns, told NBC News. “Transitioning is something that I’ve been hoping to get and been yearning for for years.

The high school sophomore is afraid that if the legislation passes, plans to take puberty-suppressing medication will be delayed indefinitely.

“I recently managed to convince my family to allow me to start transitioning, and I’m so close to getting there,” Geary said. “To take it away from me when I’m so close would be a huge blow to my hope.”

HB 1057, which successfully passed out of committee on Wednesday, would make providing certain forms of gender-affirming medical care to minors — including the prescription of puberty blockers — a Class Four felony, which in South Dakota carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison. Proponents say the bill is needed to protect children from rushing into a “life-changing” decision, while critics say it interferes with the doctor-patient relationship and could cause physical and psychological harm to trans youth.

South Dakota’s trans health care bill is not the only state legislation that has lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer advocates sounding the alarm. In fact, they say it’s just one of at least 25 anti-LGBTQ state bill s that have been proposed so far in 2020.

Many of the bills, like South Dakota’s, focus on transgender youth, but a number of others deal with nondiscrimination protections and religious exemptions. Chase Strangio, deputy director of the ACLU’s LGBT and HIV Project, called this legislative session “one of the most hostile” for LGBTQ people in recent years.

Trans youth and health care

Bills seeking to limit transgender health care for minors have been introduced in at least seven states this month — all by Republican lawmakers.

Like South Dakota, Florida and Colorado have introduced bills that carry criminal penalties. The “Vulnerable Child Protection Act,” one of four bills proposed in Florida last week that have been opposed by LGBTQ advocates, would make providing certain medical care or treatments to transgender minors — including nonsurgical care, like hormone therapy — a second-degree felony. Medical practitioners could face up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

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Tennessee lawmakers pass legislation allowing adoption agencies to deny gay couples

religious liberty

Tennessee lawmakers are already making waves on the first day of the Legislative Session with passing a bill that would allow some adoption agencies to deny gay couples.

TennesseeIn the first bill voted on for the year, Tennessee lawmakers have passed HB 836/SB 1304. The bill would allow faith-based, private adoption agencies to deny certain couples. The bills prohibit privately licensed agencies from being required to perform, assist, consent to, refer, or participate in foster placement or adoption of a child with a family that would violate the agency’s written religious or moral convictions.

The bill passed the House last year and Senators voted to pass the measure on Tuesday. On Tuesday, 20 lawmakers voted yes and 6 voted no. Lt. Gov. Randy McNally declined to vote on the measure.

Fox17.com by Kaylin Jorge, January 14, 2020

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How will LGBT history be taught in New Jersey schools after new law?

New Jersey schools LGBT

New Jersey schools will teach LGBT history under a new state law, but what does that mean for the classroom? That may depend on where you live.

The law requires that middle and high school students learn about the social, political and economic contributions of LBGT individuals, but leaves it up to local districts to determine how to teach those lessons.  New Jersey schools and LGBT history is now a part.New Jersey schools LGBT

School boards have to update social studies standards — a process that will unfold locally in hundreds of school districts — in time for the 2020-21 school year.

“I envision each board of education will set policy or set a foundation for the curriculum that is age-appropriate, and I don’t think that’s difficult,” said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-Englewood, one of the primary sponsors of the legislation.

Huttle offered examples of potential lessons: books about children with two moms or dads, or lessons on the achievements of leaders like Barbra “Babs” Siperstein, the transgender activist from Jersey City who died Feb. 3.

“When looking at someone like Babs, or Harvey Milk, or the Stonewall riots, these materials are readily available to implement and to teach students, for students to understand that there are differences,” Huttle said.

North Jersey Record, by Hannan Adely, January 7, 2020

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NYS Lawmakers Reviving Paid Gestational Surrogacy Push

New York surrogacy reform

Will Cuomo’s help prove key in opening up option, gestational surrogacy, important to gay couples?

The contested effort to legalize compensated gestational surrogacy in New York State is underway again after the legislative push faltered last year in the face of criticism from a wide range of voices, including out lesbian Assemblymember Deborah Glick of Manhattan.Glick betrayal

Governor Andrew Cuomo, who was among the chief backers of the bill last year, has included gestational surrogacy on his State of the State agenda for 2020 — which he will lay out in a January 8 address — signaling his steadfast intentions to prioritize the legislation this year.

The lawmakers who carried the bill last year, out gay State Senator Brad Hoylman of Manhattan and Assemblymember Amy Paulin of Westchester, are also moving ahead with plans to revive the legislation this year.

New York is one of the few remaining states with an outright ban on paid gestational surrogacy, which entails a prospective parent or parents compensating a person to carry a baby who is not biologically related to the carrier. Hoylman, who led the bill to passage in the Senate last year, has two children through gestational surrogacy with his husband, David Sigal.

Hoylman and other lawmakers have touted the legislation’s bill of rights that they say boasts the strongest protections in the nation for surrogates and requires parents to cover all medical and legal fees for them. The bill would also address the “second parent adoption” process by removing remaining barriers couples could face to the non-biological parent’s rights regarding their child.

Despite clearing the Senate in 2019, the legislation encountered resistance in the Assembly, where Glick blew off her previous commitment to support it and instead was among the critics arguing that women carrying the babies could be exploited and that the expensive surrogacy process is essentially available only to wealthy prospective parents who can fork over tens of thousands of dollars to have children that way.

The legislative effort was ambushed on multiple fronts. Opponents included voices as disparate as longtime feminist leader Gloria Steinem, the Catholic Church, and trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs), a group of transphobes who have emerged primarily from the United Kingdom aggressively opposing transgender rights, surrogacy rights, and sex work decriminalization. The transphobes hijacked a City Hall rally opposing sex work decriminalization last year, holding up a sign that read, “NO to the sex trade, surrogacy, and transgende­rism.”

In the final days of the 2019 legislative session late last spring, Paulin told Gay City News she was still trying to whip votes for the bill in a last-ditch effort that proved unsuccessful. On June 20, after the bill had died for the session, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said, “Many members, including a large majority of women in our conference, have raised important concerns that must be properly addressed before we can move forward.” He stressed the importance of prioritizing the “health and welfare” of women and said he looked forward to “continuing this conversation in the coming months.”

How exactly lawmakers plan to address those concerns is not clear this early in the year, but Paulin and Hoylman told Gay City News on January 2 that they are continuing to work with advocates and legislators to bolster the bill. Paulin, noting an example, pointed to the rigorous medication and hormone treatment that the women who are egg donors in the surrogacy process must adhere to. She said she is in touch with experts to navigate the best path forward in addressing those concerns.

GayCityNews.com, by Matt Tracy, January 3, 2020

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Methodist Split Over Same-Sex Marriage – United Methodist Church to Divide

Methodist Split Over Same-Sex Marriage

Under an agreement to be voted on in May, a new “traditionalist Methodist” denomination would split over same-sex marriage and continue to ban same-sex marriage and gay and lesbian clergy.

Methodist split over same-sex marriage – A group of leaders of the United Methodist Church, the second-largest Protestant denomination in the United States, the United Methodist Church, announced on Friday a plan that would formally split the church, citing “fundamental differences,” a split over same-sex marriage after years of division.catholic

The plan would sunder a denomination with 13 million members globally — roughly half of them in the United States — and create at least one new “traditionalist Methodist” denomination that would continue to ban same-sex marriage as well as the ordination of gay and lesbian clergy.

It seems likely that the majority of the denomination’s churches in the United States would remain in the existing United Methodist Church, which would become a more liberal-leaning institution as conservative congregations worldwide depart.

A separation in the Methodist church, a denomination long home to a varied mix of left and right, had been brewing for years, if not decades. It had become widely seen as likely after a contentious general conference in St Louis last February, when 53 percent of church leaders and lay members voted to tighten the ban on same-sex marriage, declaring that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”

“We tried to look for ways that we could gracefully live together with all our differences,” Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey of Louisiana said. After last year’s conference, she said, “it just didn’t look like that was even possible anymore.”

In the months following, Bishop Harvey and 15 other church representatives came together in an informal committee that determined separation was “the best means to resolve our differences, allowing each part of the church to remain true to its theological understanding.”

The United Methodist Church is only the latest denomination to be roiled with intense and exhausting theological disputes over the place of L.G.B.T. members and clergy. Such fights have led to an exodus of congregations from Presbyterian and Episcopal churches in recent years, and pushed young evangelicals and Catholics to leave the pews as well.

Representatives from the Methodists’ wide-ranging factions, including church leaders from Europe, Africa, the Philippines and the United States, hammered out the separation plan during three two-day mediation sessions held at law offices in Washington. The negotiations largely centered on how to allocate the church’s significant financial assets and how to craft a separation process.

Once the agreement is written in more granular detail, it must be approved when the denomination meets for its global conference in Minneapolis in May. The initial response from some conservatives and liberals after the announcement suggests its passage is likely.

NYTimes.com by Campbell Robertson and Elizabeth Diaz, January 3, 2020

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