Lansing Update: MCC Comments on Bills Signed Into Law that Help Foster Kids; Allow for Paid Surrogacy Contracts

MCC: Dignity of Motherhood and Children Undermined by New Surrogacy Laws

The increased risk for vulnerable women to fall prey to exploitation, along with the undermining of the dignity of motherhood and childbirth, were the concerns Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) raised this week in response to Gov. Whitmer signing legislation to make compensated surrogacy contracts legal in this state.

The legislation passed largely on party-line votes and will create a new, unregulated industry in Michigan that will result in the advertising, recruiting, and targeting of women to become paid egg donors and surrogates. In its press release this week, MCC observed that Michigan will likely see a surge in surrogacy agencies and attorneys whose work is built around negotiating contracts between couples or individuals with means and vulnerable cash-strapped young women for the conception, birth, and forfeit of a child.

“While every child possesses inherent dignity and worth, regardless of the manner by which the child came into the world, the change in Michigan law will allow for those with resources to obtain a child at the expense of women in financial need,” said MCC president and CEO Paul A. Long, in the statement. “For profit surrogacy contracts that pay females for the use of their reproductive means violate the inherent dignity of women and unethically allow children to be the subject of a contract. The practice of surrogacy undermines the significant prenatal bond formed between a child and the mother who nurtured him or her through birth.”

MCC noted that lawmakers failed to consider the totality of concerns associated with paid surrogacy contracts and neglected to consider any amendments to implement some guardrails around the new industry.

One such rejected amendment would have protected a surrogate mother from being forced to succumb to the demands of the intended parents if a contract dispute arises. Lawmakers also declined to include a residency requirement and failed to adequately protect women with intellectual or developmental disabilities from being used as surrogates.

Throughout its advocacy against the legislation, MCC frequently mentioned Pope Francis’ recent comments against surrogacy. The Holy Father called for a global ban on surrogacy and argued that children should never be the subject of a commercial contract. Next Monday, the Vatican is expected to release a document that will further address the topic of surrogacy.

MCC this week pledged to continue its advocacy to promote and improve adoption and foster care so that more married couples can become parents to the thousands of children who are awaiting homes.

The bills signed into law were House Bills 5207 through 5215.

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Bill to Provide Quality Education for Foster Children Signed Into Law

The final bill of a three-bill package supported by MCC to ensure foster children receive better education was signed by the Governor recently, who recognized MCC’s advocacy in the press release her office issued.

House Bill 4676, sponsored by Rep. Stephanie Young (D-Detroit), joins the previously signed House Bills 4677 and 4678, which together ensure foster kids are provided with an education to meet high school graduation requirements. The bills arose from reports that foster children had taken classes that didn’t count toward their graduation.

The package, which received wide bipartisan support in both chambers, requires the state to review the education being offered in foster care facilities and to report publicly on the education provided to foster children.

MCC was supportive of the package as it moved through the Legislature. In a press release issued by the Governor’s office, the following quote was attributed to Tom Hickson, vice president for public policy and advocacy for MCC:

“Michigan’s foster kids deal with so many challenges in their lives, but being denied graduation because their curriculum is inadequate should never be one of them. All Michigan’s children deserve a quality education to be able to succeed later in life. We applaud Representative Young for her work and leadership to fix this issue in House Bill 4676 and are grateful the bill is being signed by Governor Whitmer.”

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Focus Friday: During Child Abuse Prevention Month, Learn How the Church Is Protecting Kids

The month of April is designated as National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and it is important to recognize the work of Michigan Catholic parishes, schools, and dioceses to implement safe environments for children and ensuring volunteers and staff are trained to prevent and report abuse.

MCC’s Focus edition from September 2023 details the efforts of the Church in Michigan to better protect children in the two decades since the U.S. bishops adopted reforms to address the clergy abuse scandal.

Since that time, every diocese in Michigan has established a safe environment program for its parishes and schools. The dioceses employ safe environment coordinators who oversee training and background checks for clergy, employees, and volunteers across the diocese. Parishes and schools have locally appointed safe environment coordinators who carry out these tasks and report to the diocesan coordinator.

Dioceses ensure that persons who regularly interact with children in Catholic facilities are properly vetted, and have also implemented mandatory safe environment training for lay and clergy employees and volunteers to understand proper boundaries and how to recognize and report signs of abuse. It is estimated that at least 230,000 people have been trained by the Church in Michigan to protect children.

All these processes and procedures are why one Michigan diocesan safe environment coordinator said that the Catholic Church is at the forefront when it comes to implementing safe environments for children.

To learn more about how the Church in Michigan is working to protect children, click or tap here to access the digital edition of Focus, titled On Mission to Protect and Heal. To order free print copies of Focus, contact the MCC office.

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