“We’re hopeful,” says Tammy Myers, who has teamed up with Michigan Rep. Samantha Steckloff, a fellow cancer survivor, to change Michigan’s surrogacy policies
Tears were streaming down her face as she watched all nine bills of the Michigan Family Protection Act pass through the House vote on Nov. 8. The bills will now move on to the Senate and, if passed, will repeal the last criminal ban on surrogacy in the U.S.
“It’s been a long road for our family, but we are hopeful that we will see a positive change in Michigan in 2024,” Myers, 42, tells PEOPLE exclusively.
That long road began after Myers was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015. She and husband Jordan, who already had a daughter together, had planned on having more children. But her diagnosis put the brakes on the plan.
“We really wanted to have two to three children close together in age so they could grow up as best friends and playmates,” says Myers. “Our daughter Corryn was 2 when we started trying for our second child. And that’s when I found the lump and was diagnosed with breast cancer.”
The first words out of Myers’ mouth were, “How long do I have?” Then she asked, “Can I have another baby?”
“Had I not asked that question, you can’t go back,” Myers says. “I was able to do an emergency egg harvest before I went straight into treatment and surgery for several years.”
Myers did not imagine after she finished cancer treatment and looked forward to the birth of their twins with gestational carrier Lauren Vermilye that the worst was yet to come: They would be forced by a 1988 Michigan law to adopt their own biological babies, and it would take close to two years of legal battles, insurance uncertainties and financial challenges before that would happen.
Son Eames and daughter Ellison, born Jan. 11, 2021, were not legally adopted by their biological parents until December 2022.
“We are the very last state in the entire country that does not have any clear legal parentage avenues for surrogacy,” says Vermilye, who also serves as the twin’s godmother. “These laws are outdated and need to change.”
Myers’ call to activism came on the day her babies were born. The couple were told that they essentially had “zero rights” in regards to the newborns, according to Myers.
“I started texting and reaching out to everybody I knew about what was happening,” Myers says. “My husband just looked over and said, ‘They just messed with the wrong Mama Bear. She’s not going to stop until something changes here.'”
In her battle, Myers came in contact with House Representative Samantha Steckloff, who shared a similar backstory. She had also been diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015 and had her eggs removed so that she could get pregnant at a later date.
“This is more common than people understand,” Steckloff, 39, tells PEOPLE. “I started learning how family planning was no longer in my hands and it was a tough pill to swallow at 31.”
She was shocked to discover that surrogacy contracts were not legal in Michigan. After she was elected, Steckloff became a champion of fertility rights in her state, aiming to change the law regarding surrogates.
“Surrogacy in this state was the wild, wild west where you had to find someone to carry your child and then you would have to adopt them after,” says Steckloff.
After the adoption finally came through, Myers says the closure she thought would happen didn’t.
“It didn’t feel like it was behind me, and I don’t feel like we’ll have closure until the law changes,” Myers says.
Mired in legal matters, Myers says much of the first two years of her twins’ lives “is a blur to me.”
Instead of enjoying their miracle babies, they had to worry about how to get them on their health insurance and make medical decisions when they had no legal standing.
“Looking back, it’s the legal craziness in those years that overshadowed a true miracle,” Myers says. “I think I’m more bitter and hurt by it now than I was at the moment it was happening.”
Slowly, however, they have been getting into the regular rhythm of family life with two toddlers and an older sibling who adores them.
“Corryn is the best big sister and really a big help with the chaos,” Myers says. “She can get the best giggles out of both of them far better than we can.”
And this Thanksgiving, she finds herself closer to the closure she has been seeking for years.
The Myerses will be spending the day with their extended family and looking forward with hope that with changes to the law, other families will not have to go through what they did.
“This is something that it’s going to take us a while to get past,” Myers admits. “Right now, we’re trying our best to just focus on our family.”