Surrogacy agency co-founder hopes lawmakers move bill to summer study

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Lawmakers are set to take up HB 1096 again on Thursday. In a procedural move, the bill that would ban commercial surrogacy was tabled from Tuesday to Thursday.

Emilee Gehling is an attorney focused on gestational surrogacy and adoption. She also co-founded a surrogacy agency in Sioux Falls. Gehling went to Pierre, with several surrogates to advocate against the bill.

“This bill effectively would shut the door on all surrogacy,” Gehling said in an interview with KELOLAND News on Wednesday. “The way the language is written, it’s not carefully drafted.”

Lead sponsor Rep. Jon Hansen (R-Dell Rapids) said in a committee hearing last week that he is protecting the children and surrogates.

“This bill bans commercial businesses, who profit off the buying and selling of children,” he said. “Making a commodity of mothers and children and bans enforcement of contracts.”

Gehling is against a ban. She and many surrogate mothers KELOLAND News has talked to would rather have regulations.

“In order to protect the people that are involved, there are regulations that we could put in place. So, if that’s really the primary concern, then let’s look at regulations,” she said.

Regulations in other states have been designed to protect the surrogate, parents and the unborn child, according to Gehling.

Hansen’s bill passed out of committee on a party-line vote and was set to be heard on the House floor on Tuesday.

Rep. Tim Rounds (R-Pierre) filed an amendment that would kick the bill to a summer study session.

“You take 30 years of surrogacy developing in the State of South Dakota. 30 years and then you get a group of people together and in two hours you try and figure out this very complex issue. It doesn’t happen,” Gehling said. “That’s not enough time.”

In a rare procedural move, Capitol News Bureau Correspondent Bob Mercer reports, Rep. Drew Dennert (R-Aberdeen) invoked joint rule 5-17 and the required one-fifth of House members supported the attempt.

The rule requires further debate on a pending amendment to be delayed, so that one legislative day intervenes. The once-routine tactic has been rarely used in recent years.

Gehling is heading back to Pierre for the vote.