GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Under current state law, Michigan parents whose children were born through a surrogate are unable to claim them on a birth certificate.
The law families are trying to change is the Michigan Surrogate Parenting Act. The law, signed in 1988, calls surrogacy contracts ‘void’ and ‘unenforceable’ while stripping biological parents’ legal rights to their own children.
In January 2021, Tammy and Jordan Myers welcomed twins, Eames and Ellisson, into the world with the help of a surrogate.
“It is a wonderful life,” Tammy said. “It is hectic and busy, but also wonderful and amazing at the same time.”
But 19 months later, Tammy and Jordan’s names are still not on their birth certificates because of the 34-year-old Michigan law that found surrogate contracts like theirs to be “contrary to public policy.” This forced the couple to file to adopt their own biological children, a process they are still dealing with now.
“We have done everything we can to reduce those costs, which may have slowed the process a little bit,” Myers explained. “But the first agency that we talked to quoted us $35,000 per child. So, $70,000 to adopt our own biological babies. It’s just insane… It’s so frustrating. Honestly, it’s the most complicated process ever.”
As far as the state is concerned, the Myers are the twins’ legal guardians for now, and awaiting further steps towards adoption.
But a bill in Lansing introduced by State Sen. Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) could change this for future families that use surrogacy.
“There’s no reason to continue subjecting families in our communities to this kind of stress and legal hoops that they have to jump through completely unnecessarily,” Brinks said.
Brinks introduced Senate Bill 1177, which would create a new act that requires the state to enforce surrogate contracts and provide birth certificates to the biological parents in those situations. What remains unchanged is parents would still not be able to pay the surrogate for carrying their child.
“It’s really important, I think, that we treat surrogacy with all that we know about it now, with the same regard that starting a family by other methods does,” Brinks said. “The law is not fair right now in terms of how surrogacy is treated — the adoption code, for instance, or just having a baby when everything works out in traditional methods.”
Myers also hopes lawmakers pass these bills for couples and willing volunteers looking to give them the greatest gift of all.
“Knowing that our story may have been a part of something good like this … is a silver lining,” Myers said. “It brings meaning and purpose to everything that we’ve gone through. It makes it all worth it on some end, to some level.”
However, according to the state senate schedule, there are only 20 session days scheduled for the body to take action on S.B. 1177 or any legislation.