A bill that would set standards and establish contractual agreements for surrogate mothers received tentative approval Wednesday in the Minnesota Senate.

The sponsor of the bill (SF2965), Linda Higgins, DFL-Minneapolis, said the legislation would codify existing agreements between a surrogate mother and the intended parents. There are upward of 100 surrogate pregnancies completed in Minnesota each year.

"This does not create, legalize or authorize a process that is not already occurring," Higgins said.

But critics contended it would expand a process rife with potential pitfalls.

"This bill creates a new commercialization of surrogacy. This allows a surrogate to make money by renting out a portion of her body," said Sen. Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville.

The Senate tentatively approved the measure 42-25.

Under a surrogate mother agreement, a woman contracts to carry and deliver a child for someone else. The bill specifies that the intended parents are biological parents with all rights and responsibilities; that the surrogate can be compensated for her time, effort and health risk; that the surrogate must be at least 21, have given birth to at least one other child, and that both the surrogate and intended parents all have mental evaluations. It also requires that both parties have separate and independent counsel.

"This process is now totally unregulated," Higgins said. Debate included questions about the rights of the fetus and ethical issues about the propriety of the process.

"This is treating a child as a product, and it's treating a woman as a paid incubator," said Sen. Claire Robling, R-Jordan.