One woman speaks out while Maryland lawmakers contend with surrogacy bill

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One woman speaks out while Maryland lawmakers contend with surrogacy bill

This newest article highlights a Pittsburgh woman, who uses the fictitious name of Sarah Cowen, whose repeat surrogacy journey helped a Washington D.C. gay couple build their family. The men became fathers of twins a few years ago and recently had another baby girl with the same surrogate.

Cowen’s story is bracketed by a war of words from Maryland lawmakers regarding their recent decision not to push through a gestational surrogacy bill to the General Assembly.

In her mid-twenties, and with her husband’s support, Cowen approached the surrogacy threshold after having her own family.

Cowen applied with a placement agency and then became part of a message board with intending parents and surrogates.

In Metro Weekly, reporter John Riley writes, “They were eventually drawn to a profile of a gay male couple based in Washington, D.C. After exchanging messages and sharing profiles, the couples began the process of negotiating the legal and logistical issues involved with a pregnancy.”

They agreed on Shady Grove Fertility Center based in Rockville, Maryland.

An egg donor was used.

Sarah carried twin girls and gave birth in her home state of Pittsburgh. The fathers were present for the birth of their daughters.

Riley goes on to write that since the Cowen family resided in a progressive county, there was no need for the fathers to go through an adoption process.

“Instead, both were placed directly on the birth certificate, making them the legally recognized parents, something that doesn’t generally occur in other states,” he writes. “But while Sarah’s story has a happy ending, the world of adoption, surrogacy and gestational carriers can be extremely complex and complicated, often hindered by outdated laws that have failed to keep up with both medical advances and with changing societal definitions of what constitutes a parent or a family.”

In the District, Riley pointed out in his article, surrogacy is permitted but surrogacy agreements are prohibited.

He continues, “A proposed Council bill that would legalize those agreements, both for traditional surrogacy and gestational surrogacy, has stalled in the Judiciary Committee. In Maryland, meanwhile, where legislators had hoped to clarify the law with respect to the rights and responsibilities of prospective parents and surrogates who enter into a gestational carrier agreements, a bill failed to move forward in the General Assembly.”

To date, there is no law in the “Free State” pertaining to gestational surrogacy.  What does this mean? Well, it concludes that a surrogate would be assuming parentage for the baby she is carrying for another person or couple until the process of adoption is completed.

Those in favor say that opponents of Maryland’s gestational carrier bill intentionally tossed theories of doubt to other delegates. Opponents offered no demarcation between the definition of gestational and traditional surrogacy which left many perplexed.

Riley reports, “They concocted outlandish and unrealistic scenarios that portrayed the bill as a Pandora’s Box that would unleash nightmare legal scenarios on the citizens of Maryland.

Kathleen Dumais (D-Montgomery Co.) reminded everyone that this was the first year of a new term. Dumais is the House sponsor of the gestational carrier bill.

Riley writes, “Dumais adds that almost any bill on family law would have been unlikely to move forward this session, as many bills were overshadowed by legislation dealing with issues of police accountability, particularly in light of the recent unrest in Baltimore following the death of an African-American man in police custody.”

While this gestational carrier bill waits in the wings for another round, opponents of this bill are claiming exploitation among surrogates. This triggered Cowen to speak up.

She told reporters, “It was so much more than just a pregnancy.  To think I didn’t get any return from this is wrong. I got to experience helping create an entire family. It’s my greatest accomplishment, and I can’t imagine not having this as a part of my life story.”