Whitmer signs law to protect family planning choices - TAI News
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Governor Gretchen Whitmer signing the Michigan Family Protection Act on April 1, 2024. (Credit: Executive Office of the Governor)

Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday signed a package of bills into law that decriminalizes paid gestational surrogacy contracts in the state, ending Michigan’s status as the only state in the country where it was illegal to enter into or facilitate such a contract.  

Whitmer signed the Michigan Family Protection Act, a series of nine bills that repeals a law prohibiting paid surrogacy contracts in the state and creates protections for surrogates, parents, and the children born through the surrogacy process. 

“I’m going to sign the Michigan Family Protection Act,” Whitmer said Monday at a bill-signing event. “It is a package of common-sense, long-overdue changes to remove criminal prohibitions on surrogacy. It’s to protect families born by IVF and to ensure LGBTQ+ parents are treated equally.”

Paid surrogacy contracts have been illegal in Michigan since 1988, when Republicans in the state passed a law that said surrogate parentage contracts were void and unenforceable and made it a misdemeanor to enter into a paid surrogacy contract, punishable by up to $10,000 in fines and/or up to one year in prison. The law also made it a felony for anyone to help arrange a paid surrogacy contract, punishable by up to $50,000 in fines and/or up to five years in prison. 

Aside from repealing the 1988 law, the Michigan Family Protection Act also requires that surrogates be at least 21 years of age, have given birth before, and pass medical and mental health evaluations to ensure they are healthy to carry a pregnancy. 

One Michigan mom, Tammy Myers, has been working to try to get the Legislature to repeal the 1988 surrogacy ban for years, after she and her husband were forced to go through the legal system to gain custody of their twins born via gestational surrogate in 2021. 

Myers, a breast cancer survivor, and her husband decided to have children via surrogate because a pregnancy could have caused her cancer to return. The Myerses tried to get a custody order before the birth in order to ensure their names would be listed on their twins’ birth certificates. However, the twins were born prematurely, before the custody certificate was finalized. 

Without the custody order, the Myerses had to adopt their biological children, a process that took nearly two full years.

Whitmer specifically mentioned Tammy Myers’ ordeal at an event Monday to celebrate the bill’s signing.

“The trauma stays with her,” Whitmer said of Myers, who attended the bill signing. “I mean, can you imagine not being able to have your name on your child’s birth certificate? Not being able to put them on your health insurance? Can you imagine holding your child and being told that child’s not legally yours? It’s wrong. And today, for her and so many others, we’re going to be making it right.”

The Michigan Family Protection Act was sponsored by Democratic state Rep. Samantha Steckloff, who is unable to have children naturally after undergoing breast cancer treatments. 

“I’ve been working tirelessly on this legislation for years, so I’m thrilled that this package has finally passed both the House and Senate,” Steckloff said in a statement on March 19, after the state Senate passed the bill, sending it to Whitmer’s desk for signature. “Now our laws are set to protect people’s right to decide when and how to grow their family — an achievement made possible by the hard work and dedication of all those who supported this effort.”

The legislation first passed the Michigan state House in November 2023, with every Republican lawmaker voting against it. The state Senate then passed the bill on March 19 by a vote of 69-22, with all of the no votes coming from Republicans. 

“I was shocked that so many legislators in Michigan voted against these bills,” Whitmer said. “It’s all about giving women access to another way to have a child or a same-sex couple access to a way to have a child while ensuring that every child has equal protection under the law. This is the most pro-family thing this Legislature has been able to get done, and they’ve gotten a lot of good stuff done this year.”

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