A legislative task force studying surrogate motherhood may recommend that the practice be legalized in Utah.

Then again, it may not.After several months of study and innumerable public hearings on the controversial issue, the task force is vacillating between two recommendations. One is to ban surrogate contracts and the practice of surrogate motherhood in this state, and clearly define where legal and financial responsibility resides if Utahns engage in the practice in another country.

The second option is to allow surrogate motherhood in Utah under very rigidly prescribed and controlled guidelines.

Rep. Grant Protzman, D-Ogden, said that means that careful psychological evaluation of all parties involved would be mandatory, as would an assessment of the stability of the relationships of all people involved.

"Rent-a-womb" situations would be prohibited.

In other words, there would be no financial compensation for the surrogate mother beyond actual medical expenses.

"Any kind of remuneration except expenses shouldn't be tolerated," Protzman said. "Once profit becomes a motive, the best interest of the child will be overlooked. This should never be a profit-making venture, but something that needs to be altruistically motivated in order to safeguard the child's interests."

The representative said if the financial remunerations are great enough, there are women who would become professional surrogates.

"But when profit becomes the motive, you price the poor and average citizen out of the market," he said. "Yet they may be wonderful parents. We'd hate to make surrogate parenthood a province of only the wealthy.

"Parenthood shouldn't be the province of prosperity only."

Which option the task force will recommend to the Legislature is unknown. Protzman, task force chairman, said they will start to hammer out their recommendations at their Sept. 21 meeting for discussion at the October legislative interim meetings.

Surrogate motherhood is currently under study in more than a dozen states. Only four states prohibit it. One allows contracts in a very restricted way.

Protzman said it's legal in Utah because the Legislature hasn't ruled against it.

"There isn't a great human cry to legalize it," he said, "but there are a lot of infertile couples who don't want the option taken away from them."

Protzman noted that medical technology, including in vitro fertilization, is readily accessible in Utah. However, some insurance companies cover the sophisticated procedures, some don't - another issue the task force is addressing.

"We want to remove the ambiguity and legal definitions so insurance liability becomes more clearly defined," he said.