LEGISLATION

No Wombs For Rent?

Congress is considering legislation that would ban contractual agreements that involve payments to a surrogate mother. The bill, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Thomas Luken (D-Ohio), would also impose criminal penalties on people who arrange such contracts or advertise for prospective surrogate mothers.

“Surrogacy is a nice word,” Luken said, “a fancy word that is used for sugar-coating a practice in which the baby peddlers are involved in the business of selling babies.” A House Commerce subcommittee held hearings on Luken’s bill last month.

Harriet Blankfeld, operator of a suburban Washington firm that oversees surrogate arrangements, told members of Congress that the payment received by surrogate mothers is for their childbearing service, not for the baby itself. “We’ve had 49 births and no surrogate mothers who challenged the contract,” she said.

However, four surrogate mothers testified in favor of the ban on surrogacy contracts. “The economics of surrogacy in this country are simple,” said Mary Beth Whitehead, the surrogate mother who lost custody of her daughter in the highly publicized Baby M case. “The sperm donors are well-off, and the women they hire to bear their children generally are not.”

MAKING CHANGES

Proposed Methodist Hymnal

The United Methodist Hymnal Revision Committee has ended its controversial three-year task, producing what it calls a “populist” hymnal. The new hymnbook will be submitted for approval to the denomination’s general conference next April.

The United Methodist Hymnal is designed to replace the church’s Book of Hymns, produced 21 years ago. Many of the new book’s hymns contain ...

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