Grassroots advocacy at its best in Minnesota
Posted by: Betsy Campbell at February 16, 2017
Category: Federal and State legislation
I recently returned from St. Paul, MN, exhilarated from RESOLVE’s Minnesota Advocacy Day where the family building community rallied together to protect access to gestational carrier surrogacy. More than 60 advocates – patients and professionals alike – traveled to the capitol building in St. Paul to educate their lawmakers about the reality of gestational carrier surrogacy, which has been under threat there in recent years.
In 2016 a “Legislative Commission on Surrogacy” was created by the state legislature to “study” this family building option. The 15 member Commission held 10 meetings throughout the summer and fall of 2016, during which RESOLVE provided testimony and lined up witnesses to show how gestational surrogacy serves Minnesota families and is a safe family building option (see Gestational Carrier Surrogacy infographic).
Scores of RESOLVE advocates – intended parents, gestational carriers, physicians, and mental health and other professionals – attended and testified at the Commission meetings, sent letters, and met with their lawmakers. The message was clear: produce a Commission report that will protect all participants in gestational surrogacy arrangements while ensuring this family building option remains available and legal in Minnesota.
Opponents of surrogacy, many from out-of-state, argued before the Commission that surrogates are often low-income, poorly educated women who serve as surrogates solely for financial reasons; that surrogates lack the mental capacity to understand what they are doing and are being exploited; and that surrogates and children born of surrogacy are harmed emotionally. When it was time for public testimony, no surrogates from Minnesota testified about being exploited or harmed during their surrogacy experience, and no studies were presented to support the claims made by the opposition. A report was drafted and signed by 8 out of the 15 Commission members, a majority of the Commission, which recognized the value of surrogacy and included reasonable standards for its use in Minnesota. RESOLVE supported this majority report. However, due to a procedural rule, this majority report was not presented as the final Commission report to the legislature because not all the signers were present at the final meeting. RESOLVE does not support the final Commission report that went to the legislature. We knew we still had more work to do.
Our team of advocates and experts in Minnesota worked with state lawmakers to draft legislation that reflected the consensus points reached by both supporters and opponents on the Surrogacy Commission. The Gestational Carrier Act was introduced on February 6, 2017, the day before our Advocacy Day, and called for the following standards:
- Mental health/physical exams for gestational carrier candidates;
- Mental health exams for intended parents;
- Independent legal representation for gestational carriers and intended parents to ensure everyone is aware of their rights and responsibilities and no one is being taken advantage of; and
- Clarifying Minnesota’s parentage law so that intended parents don’t have to incur the expense of adopting their own child. This occurs in many Minnesota counties because of the lack of a clear state standard.
On Advocacy Day, our advocates were trained to talk about the new legislation and were successful in getting co-authors to support the bill. In addition, they participated in a press conference that resulted in a news story on the local CBS station and an editorial in the Star-Tribune. And each and every advocate is committed to nurturing the relationships they made on Advocacy Day and continuing to fight for access to care.
In short, this was grassroots advocacy at its best. The Minnesota family building community came together, shared their stories, and took action to protect access to all family building options. They were united by advocacy and inspired to act – a beautiful sight to behold!
Are you inspired to act?
- Get Involved at a Grassroots level in your state.
- If you live in New York, attend NY Advocacy Day to overturn the ban on compensated gestational surrogacy and add IVF and fertility preservation to the state insurance mandate.
- Come to federal Advocacy Day in Washington, DC on May 18, 2017.
- Sign up for action alerts from RESOLVE.
- Donate to RESOLVE so that we are able to fight for access at the state and federal level.