Gov. Bobby Jindal has a tough call to make on state Sen. Gary Smith’s SB 162. Proper weighing of its good and bad points, the moral import, and public policy ramifications involved direct him to the correct decision on whether to sign or veto this bill.
SB 162 would make surrogate motherhood contracts enforceable in Louisiana courts for married couples. Smith argues this from his own personal experience in the matter, saying that under the present unregulated system that couples whether married in the state can contract for this service but the contracts can be abrogated without penalty. Even after successful birth, then adoption must occur as the child legally is the mother’s who bore him, costing time and money.
Most states regulate the practice, and this version has drawn opposition. One complaint is that it precludes unmarried couples from falling under the new legal protection. But it makes no sense for this to occur in anything but a marriage between one man and one woman. Same-sex unions by definition cannot produce children, and why should the state support an attempt between a man and a woman not married to each other when the state recognizes and subsidizes through policy marriage as a means to reproduction?
However, an objection with substance is that surrogacy as a concept creates moral difficulties. The process not only puts human life at risk, because multiple embryos may be used in the process causing their destruction by unnatural and artificial means, but also, as elegantly explained in the Roman Catholic Church’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s Donum Vitae, it tears at the very fabric of the idea of unity expressed in marriage. Catholics are instructed not to condone or to participate in its practice.
Jindal is a practicing Catholic and as such is bound to follow this moral directive of his faith. While the role of conscience is important in moral decisions for a Catholic, and Jindal neither is participating in nor assisting a direct instance of this behavior in a decision to sign or allow the legislation to become law, which could allow him conscientiously to act in this manner, the most reasoned decision would be for him to veto the bill.
A veto would not impose the moral judgment of illegitimacy on the practice as it simply would leave the state disconnected to the practice. It would not be outlawed and individuals of married status or lack of it would be free to pursue the matter. While bureaucratic procedures may be more cumbersome this way, the practice would continue legally even if in Louisiana contracts would not involve a juridical element. And if this discourages couples who have demonstrated willingness to raise children not entirely biologically their own, adoption is another method where a child not gestated by the woman may become theirs to raise.
If casting a veto, Jindal will draw some flack about doing that to a bill that passed overwhelmingly and is held out by many to be pro-family and a win for all concerned. Yet convenience never substitutes for informed moral scrutiny when it comes to doing the right thing, and in this instance that mandates a veto.