Lawmakers next session will consider strengthening regulations and medical protections for sperm and egg donors, surrogate mothers, their children and the intended parents.
Sen. Liz Krueger introduced legislation this week improve the legal framework for gestational surrogacy in New York, which became legal in the state in 2021. She says the legal and medical protections created under the Child-Parent Security Act don't go far enough.
"In my opinion, there are inadequate protections for egg and sperm donors, intended parents and donor-conceived people," Krueger said Wednesday during a virtual press conference about the bill.
The legislation to legalize gestational surrogacy was included in the 2020 budget under then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo. It also established regulation of gestational surrogacy, surrogacy agreements, surrogacy programs, assisted reproduction service providers and created a surrogates Bill of Rights.
Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat, says the state's surrogacy policies must keep up with fast-changing assisted reproductive technology, and that current law provides little regulation of sperm and egg donation clinics.
"Agencies seek to recruit young people for egg and sperm donation who are generally in need of that money, may be vulnerable and my not understand the risks or their rights," the senator said.
Recent advancements and increased reliance on reproductive medicine also lead to more medical complications for all parties involved, placing related ethics in a grey area.
Krueger's legislation would change privacy protections and require sex cell donors, surrogates, their children and intended parents be fully informed about necessary medical procedures and health risks. It would also create a registry for egg donor surrogates and intended parents to enforce the new policies and limit offspring born to one donor.
Donors often can't find out how many children they have, and people born from a donor or surrogate don't get accurate information about their origin.
"Every year, there's going to be a growing number of people who are brought into the world under these arrangements and we need to pre-think the issues before they start to happen at a bigger level," said Krueger, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee.
It would also require a state-licensed clinician perform all screening and services, which advocates say will make the surrogacy process safer.
"The physician may be acting on behalf of the intended parent, whose interests may differ," said Dr. Wendy Chavkin, Columbia University Medical Center professor emeritus of public health and obstetrics gynecology.
"Donors and surrogates take medical risks without receiving direct medical benefits and receive financial incentives, which may interfere with their ability to assess the risks carefully," Chavkin added. "Yet both involve medical risks."
If the bill becomes law, donors would be entitled to their medical records and what happens to their donated sperm and egg cells.
People conceived from a donor, or born of a surrogate could also get their personal identity and health history information.
New York filmmaker Sara Lamm learned she was conceived by a sperm donor at the age of 29. She recalled Wednesday the impact not knowing her medical history and the journey to get it had on her life.
"Most people want to shrug off this kind of dislocation and they say things like 'Aren't you glad that you exist?' [or] 'But your parents really loved you, what's the big deal?'" she said. "Our imagination and sympathy can extend to people who are adopted. We know sort of instinctively not to say these kinds of things to them, but so far, our imagination has yet to totally reckon with the psychological health and wellbeing of donor-conceived people."
Lamm recounted stories of other donor-conceived adults she knows in the state, one who has 61 half-siblings in the same geographic area.
"It's one thing when we're children, it's another one when we're teens, when we're planning our own families, when we're looking back over our lives," she said. said. "And the same is true for donors."