A newly enacted package of bills in Michigan that decriminalizes paid surrogacy contracts ignores multiple concerns that exist within the practice, including protecting women from exploitation and human trafficking, according to the state’s Catholic bishops.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the Michigan Family Protection Act on April 1. Whitmer touted the package of bills as “commonsense, long overdue” action that not only repeals the state’s ban on surrogacy contracts, but also protects families formed by in vitro fertilization (IVF), and ensures LGBTQ+ parents are treated equally.

Meanwhile, the Michigan Catholic Conference, the policy arm of the state’s Catholic bishops, have warned that the bills will create a new, unregulated industry in the state that will result in the advertising, recruiting and targeting of women to become paid egg donors and surrogates.

The organization also said it fears that the state will likely see a surge in surrogate agencies and attorneys whose work is built around negotiating contracts between couples of 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,” Paul Long, the president and CEO of the Michigan Catholic Conference said in an April 1 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,” Long continued. “The practice of surrogacy undermines the significant prenatal bond formed between a child and the mother who nurtured him or her through birth.”

Michigan is the last state to legalize contractual surrogacy.

Surrogacy is a practice in which one person agrees to carry a child for an intended parent or parents. It has become a common tool for families facing infertility challenges and same-sex couples.

IVF, meanwhile, is a procedure used to help someone get pregnant. How it works is that mature eggs are collected from ovaries and fertilized by sperm in a lab. Then a procedure is done to place one or more of the fertilized eggs in the woman’s uterus, which is where the babies develop.

Whitmer said the package of bills is important to allow more people to create families in Michigan.

“Decisions about if, when, and how to have a child should be left to a family, their doctor, and those they love and trust, not politicians,” Whitmer said in an April 1 statement. “If we want more people and families to ‘make it’ in Michigan, we need to support them with the resources they need to make these deeply personal, life-changing choices.”

Michigan Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks, a Democrat representing Grand Rapids, similarly said in a statement that the legislation was important to show anyone can pursue dreams of parenthood.

“Today, we are taking tangible action to show the rest of the nation that Michigan is a place where anyone can pursue their dreams of parenthood without unnecessary hurdles,” Brinks said on April 1. “After years of fighting hard to grant Michiganders the freedom to grow their families through surrogacy, it’s an incredible relief and honor to be here today as this long-awaited legislation is finally signed into law.”

Conversely, Long argues that while the conference recognizes the good that exists in the desire to have children and create a family, there will be a societal cost to compensated, for-profit surrogacy.

“With the law requiring surrogates to have previously given birth to a child, young or single moms – likely those with small children of their own – will be targeted for the use of their body and enticed with money needed to provide for their children,” Long said.

Instead of these policies, Long said the state should instead focus on policies that promote and improve the state’s adoption and foster care system, “so married men and women who earnestly desire to be parents may be better connected with the thousands of children in need of loving homes.”

Earlier this year, Pope Francis called for a universal ban on surrogacy, calling the practice “despicable,” noting that a child is a gift and “never the basis of a commercial contract.”

“I consider despicable the practice of so-called surrogate motherhood, which represents a grave violation of the dignity of the woman and the child, based on the exploitation of situations of the mother’s material needs,” Francis said on January 8.