Project 2025 leader The Heritage Foundation is on an anti-surrogacy crusade

The attacks on surrogacy are part of a broader effort to roll back reproductive rights and marginalize LGBTQ communities

The Heritage Foundation, the conservative think tank behind a policy and staffing proposal for the next Republican administration known as Project 2025, recently published several articles attacking surrogacy as part of a broader campaign by conservatives to roll back reproductive rights.

Project 2025 is the conservative movement’s comprehensive policy and staffing plan for the next Republican administration. It includes a nearly 900-page policy book titled Mandate for Leadership: A Conservative Promise, which describes a draconian agenda to roll back civil rights, remove environmental protections, undermine the rule of law, and gut the federal bureaucracy. Mandate for Leadership calls for attacking reproductive rights from several angles, including removing the term “abortion” from all federal laws and regulations, reversing abortion pill approval, punishing providers by withdrawing federal health funding, and restricting clinics that provide contraception and STD testing. It also subtly takes aim at surrogacy, writing that “all children have a right to be raised by the men and women who conceived them.”

The commentary published to the Heritage Foundation’s website expands on Project 2025’s anti-surrogacy agenda.

In January, Heritage Foundation senior research associate Emma Waters published a blog criticizing a Michigan bill to decriminalize compensated surrogacy and provide more legal protections for LGBTQ intended parents. (Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the bill into law on April 1.) Waters’ article, titled “Exploiting the Vulnerable,” argued: “That’s bad news. Surrogacy laws like Michigan’s exploit women by reducing them to ‘rent-a-womb’ service providers.”

“These laws seek, for all intents and purposes, to erase biological mothers (eg donors), biological fathers (sperm donors), and surrogate mothers from a child’s life,” she wrote, adding, “This means that, in effect, Michigan’s ‘reproduction’ law ignores the well-being of the child.”

In fact, the new law benefits families by ensuring the intended parents and child aren’t left in legally murky situations as a result of Michigan’s former law — which, in effect, required parents to adopt their own children. It also allows LGBTQ couples to have children who are biologically related to one of the parents.

In March, Waters again targeted surrogacy in an article headlined “Inconclusive: The Research on Surrogacy’s Impact on Children.” The piece attempted to muddy the waters of the research into children born to families who have used surrogates, arguing that “we know very little about its long-term impact on a child’s psychological well-being.” After a limited review of the existing literature, Waters concludes that “we do not have enough data to draw a conclusion either way,” adding, “There is a huge difference between no harm and no known harm.” (Emphasis in original.)

Waters here uses a familiar sleight-of-hand. The available research — which is admittedly limited — has largely found “that children born from surrogacy agreements of any sort do as well, if not better, psychologically than their natural-born peers,” as Waters herself characterizes it. Yet she takes this evidence and ignores it, opting instead to arrive at her preferred policy outcome under the guise of good-faith skepticism. Her argument is reminiscent of right-wing media’s long-running, unsubstantiated claim that same-sex parents are harmful to children.

Writing for Heritage, Waters has also criticized the role that LGBTQ advocates have played in supporting surrogacy. In June 2023, she criticized a “radical LGBTQ+” organization that she claimed “promotes the commercial surrogacy ‘rent a womb’ industry.” Earlier that year, she wrote, “The recent push to expand IVF and commercial surrogacy rights traces back to the pro-abortion and the LGBTQ coalitions, both of which have been quite hostile to the rights of children and the unborn."

The same year, Waters railed against federal legislation to protect trans people and others in LGBTQ communities, claiming the Equality Act went against “those who believe in natural marriage,” would enable “men to masquerade as women,” and further “harms women, children, and all those who understand mammalian biology.” In fact, the legislation — which passed the House but stalled in the Senate due to Republican opposition — would “amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to explicitly prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” and “explicitly enshrine those nondiscrimination protections into law for sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Waters further illustrated how her anti-LGBTQ stances animate her anti-surrogacy advocacy when she argued in a post on X (formerly Twitter) that several prominent LGBTQ people had “bought” a child they'd “eugenically select[ed].”

Ahem… Dave Rubin, Pete Buttigieg, Shane Dawson, et al  **bought** a male child by ❌ buying a women’s egg ❌ using IVF to eugenically select their ideal child  ❌ renting the womb of a surrogate mother to gestate and birth their child   No background checks required.

Citation From the official X/Twitter account of The Heritage Foundation's Emma Waters

Heritage has also used both Project 2025 and Waters’ further writing published to its site to attack access to in vitro fertilization care. Heritage has expressed support for the Alabama Supreme Court ruling that granted frozen embryos the same rights as children.

The attacks Heritage has leveled at surrogacy and IVF are just the latest example of the right’s decadeslong war on reproductive rights. With Project 2025, that playbook is now largely out in the open.