The Watch What Happens Live host, 55, spoke candidly about the arrival of Lucy, who is now 1 year old, in a revealing new interview, and discussed his work toward legalizing the gestational surrogacy process so he could become a parent for the second time. (The New York-based Cohen also has a 4-year-old son, Benjamin, who was born in California.)
"I was going to Albany. Surrogacy was illegal in the state of New York, and I helped get that law passed," the Bravo star explained to host Amanda Hirsch on the May 30 episode of her Not Skinny But Not Fat podcast. "And [former] Governor Cuomo, he really made it happen, by the way.”
Cohen shared how he "was out there trying to get" the law to legalize compensated gestational surrogacy passed because he "wanted my surrogate to have the baby in New York." According to Cohen, "Lucy was one of the first surrogate babies born here."
What is compensated gestational surrogacy?
The process of compensated, or commercial, gestational surrogacy is when a woman carries a child, to whom she is not biologically related, for an individual or couple in exchange for a fee. Compensated gestational surrogacy differs from compensated traditional surrogacy, which is when a carrier uses her own eggs and is genetically tied to the resulting child. In contrast, in gestational surrogacy, the surrogate has no biological link to the baby. Using an egg from the intended mother, it is then fertilized with sperm and transferred to the surrogate. Compensated traditional surrogacy is still illegal in New York.
While it varies depending on location and experience, the traditional compensation for a surrogate in the United States ranges between $30,000 and $60,000, the New York Times reported in 2021. As reported by Yahoo Life last week, the new "State of Surrogacy" survey from surrogacy agency Surrogate First found that expected base salary compensation rates and benefits have increased by up to 35%, and doesn't account for legal costs, agency fees and fertility treatments. All told, the entire process can result in fees between $100,000 and $150,000, per the Associated Press.
Legalizing compensated gestational surrogacy
Compensated gestational surrogacy is still illegal in Michigan and Louisiana, with the specifics varying in other states — including Nebraska, where a statute says paid surrogacy contracts are unenforceable. While it was previously illegal in New York, that changed with the Child-Parent Security Act (CPSA), which went into effect on Feb. 15, 2021. The act officially legalized gestational surrogacy and "provides a simple path to establish legal parental rights for parents who rely on assisted reproductive technology (ART) to have children."
The legalization of compensated gestational surrogacy in New York has been a long and arduous process. The first bill seeking to repeal the New York ban was introduced by Assemblywoman Amy Paulin in 2012. However, it faced significant opposition from the Roman Catholic Church, as well as some feminists who claimed it led to the exploitation of women, the Associated Press reported. Detractors have long claimed the process preys on poor and vulnerable women due to the compensation aspect. Famed feminist Gloria Steinem argued in 2019 that “under this bill, women in economic need become commercialized vessels for rent, and the fetuses they carry become the property of others." However, applicants who are deemed overly dependent on the compensation involved, including those who receive government assistance, are screened out as surrogates, the Times reported.
While legislation around surrogacy continues to change, the "State of Surrogacy" survey mentioned above shows how surrogates themselves feel about the process. For example, nearly half of the surrogates — 49% — said they would work with a same-sex couple, although only about 17% have done so. The survey also found that 99% of surrogates said that they wanted "some to frequent" communication with their intended parents 12 months after the baby is born.
In Cohen's case, the story has a happy ending, with the TV host proudly sharing his journey to parenthood.
"I am a single dad, and I'm proud of it," he shared on Hirsch's podcast. "It's so hard. but if I knew how hard it was, I still would have done it."
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