A special state task force is reportedly "leaning" toward recommending a Utah law that would permit surrogate motherhood. But the basic idea of surrogate pregnancy is a poor one, fraught with all kinds of legal and emotional complications.

Essentially, surrogate motherhood involves an agreement between an infertile couple and a third-party woman in which the woman, for a fee, bears a child for the couple as a result of artificial insemination from the husband. The resulting baby is the biological offspring of the husband and the surrogate mother.That can lead to all kinds of problems, including fights over the legal and custody rights of the surrogate mother, the father, visitation rights, family ties, and possible breaking of the contract if the surrogate mother decides to keep the baby after giving birth.

All of these problems were present in the celebrated "Baby M" case finally resolved earlier this year - to no one's satisfaction - after a lengthy court battle.

Utah's Surrogate Parenthood Study Committee has examined these issues and appears to favor surrogacy under strictly controlled circumstances. These would include prohibiting surrogacy for profit, limiting payment to actual expenses. Any deal would have to involve a written contract approved by a district judge. And a loophole would allow a surrogate mother to change her mind and keep the child, despite objections of the father.

While such protections would solve some problems, they would not eliminate the possibility for legal trouble, emotional trauma, and confusion involving two or more families.

At present, four states prohibit surrogate motherhood, while one allows it under strict conditions. The rest are like Utah, without anything on the books. Committee members apparently feel that denying surrogate motherhood contracts might raise constitutional issues. There also is reluctance to close the door on any options for infertile couples.

But those are weak arguments compared to the potential for serious, wrenching problems in any surrogate arrangement. Surrogate motherhood proposals are just asking for trouble.

Instead of allowing surrogacy, the Legislature ought to prohibit the practice.