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About Surrogacy


Surrogacy is an arrangement in which a woman carries and delivers a child for another couple or person. Most commonly, the surrogate is impregnated with an embryo created with the egg of another woman. This is termed "gestational surrogacy." In "traditional surrogacy," the surrogate is also the child's genetic mother.

Surrogacy is often used to allow women who are unable to carry a child, but whose eggs are viable, to have a child genetically related to both her and her partner. In other cases, "intended parents" including gay couples use surrogates and third-party eggs to create a child genetically related to one member of the couple.

Some surrogacy arrangements involve no financial considerations between the parties involved, or compensate the surrogate only for expenses and, perhaps, lost wages involved with carrying the child. Increasingly, however, surrogacy is a commercial arrangement.

A number of countries and U.S. states prohibit commercial surrogacy arrangements, or limit compensation to expenses and lost wages. Others have no regulations and market-like conditions prevail.

In the U.S., costs for surrogacy are upwards of $100,000. This has led to the practice known as "reproductive tourism," in which prospective parents travel to avoid regulations or to save money. Some people seeking surrogates, especially Europeans, come to the U.S., but even more go to less developed regions where fertility practices are loosely regulated, if at all. India, perhaps the world's number one hub for cross-border medical treatment, has a reproductive tourism market with revenues estimated to be over half a billion dollars.

Industry supporters often defend this practice saying that women in developing countries can earn many times a normal salary by being a surrogate. However, women's health and human rights advocates and scholars raise serious concerns about how these arrangements take advantage of socially marginalized women, compromising their health and reproductive autonomy to make a profit. Some surrogate brokers, for example, routinely perform C-sections on all of their surrogates so that hiring parents can schedule to be present for the delivery. There have been several scandals involving the exploitation of surrogate mothers or fraud committed by brokers on would-be parents.

There may be legal issues after the birth of a child to a foreign surrogate. Questions of citizenship remain unresolved in several jurisdictions.


Israeli Parents, Indian Surrogates, a Nepali Earthquake, and "Cheap White Eggs"by Diane Beeson, Biopolitical Times guest contributorFebruary 8th, 2016A recent Radiolab episode reveals rarely examined layers of complexity in the typically fairy-tale accounts of cross-border surrogacy.
Expert: Parents often won't take surrogate kids with defectsby Rod McGuirkAssociated PressFebruary 3rd, 2016Baby Gammy, left by intended parents with his poor surrogate mother in Thailand, was one of several cases of surrogate children abandoned, an expert told a parliamentary inquiry.
Italy Considers Civil Unions — But May Add Penalties for Surrogacyby Trudy RingThe AdvocateJanuary 22nd, 2016As Italy’s Parliament prepares to debate a civil unions bill, some lawmakers have proposed an amendment punishing couples who use overseas surrogates to become parents.
Viet Nam welcomes its first surrogate babyby VNSViet Nam NewsJanuary 22nd, 2016In Viet Nam, only close relatives may act as surrogates, and the intended mother must be unable to have children for health reasons.
Mexico's Booming Business of Producing Babies for Foreigners Is About To Go Bustby Gabriela GorbeaVICE NewsJanuary 19th, 2016A reform approved by Tabasco's congress removes the surrogacy boom's main two markets — childless foreigners in general, and childless foreign gay couples in particular.
Surrogate Sues Father Over Tripletsby Brandy ZadroznyThe Daily BeastJanuary 6th, 2016In response to an intended parent's request to abort one of three fetuses, a pregnant plaintiff says she will carry them all to term and is suing to keep at least one of the babies.
The billion dollar babiesby Vandy Muong & Will JacksonThe Phnom Penh Post [Cambodia]January 2nd, 2016Now banned in India, Nepal and Thailand, the surrogacy industry is moving into Cambodia, but potential parents are being warned to stay away.
Crackdown on Surrogacy 'to Continue' Even as Ban Idea Droppedby Liu Jiaying (trans. Li Rongde)Caixin Online [China]December 29th, 2015Lawmakers in China believe further consultation on the complex issue is needed, but surrogacy is still effectively banned.
Shifting Surrogacy Laws Give Birth to Uncertainty by Brad BertrandNikkei Asian Review [Singapore]December 26th, 2015Since the government clampdowns in Thailand, India and Nepal, the focus in Asia has shifted to Malaysia and Cambodia, which lack comprehensive legal frameworks to regulate surrogacy.
Biopolitical News of 2015by Elliot Hosman, Pete Shanks & Marcy Darnovsky, Biopolitical TimesDecember 22nd, 2015We highlight 2015’s breaking news stories about human biotech developments.
Mexican State Votes to Ban Surrogacy for Gay Men and Foreign People by Associated Press in Mexico CityThe Guardian [UK]December 15th, 2015Tabasco was the only Mexican state to allow surrogacy, supposedly on a non-commercial basis.
Health Canada all but ignores illegal ad for surrogate, cash for egg donors, internal documents revealby Tom BlackwellNational Post [Canada]December 13th, 2015Evidence shows that Health Canada has not just turned a blind eye, but has been complicit with illegal activity.
Uterus Transplants May Soon Help Some Infertile Women in the U.S. Become Pregnantby Denise GradyThe New York TimesNovember 12th, 2015The Cleveland Clinic will become the first US site for experimental uterus transplants.
[Cambodia] Gov’t to Crack Down on Surrogacy Clinicsby Chea Takihiro & Jonathan CoxKhmer TimesNovember 11th, 2015Surrogacy companies are moving their “wombs for rent” services from Thailand to Cambodia, but government officials plan to classify surrogacy as a form of human trafficking.
'Somebody has to be the icebreaker': Aussies seeking babies turn to Cambodiaby Lindsay MurdochSydney Morning HeraldOctober 30th, 2015A booming surrogacy industry chased out of Thailand and Nepal has established itself in Cambodia, where human trafficking laws and a lack of surrogacy regulation could produce fraught legal battles.
India Wants to Ban Birth Surrogacy for Foreignersby Nida NajarThe New York TimesOctober 28th, 2015A draft bill would exclude foreigners from accessing commercial surrogacy in India.
American Surrogate Death: NOT the Firstby Mirah RibenHuffPost BlogOctober 15th, 2015Brooke Lee Brown's death "underscores the ethical problem with asking women to serve as surrogates for non-medical reasons." Is death simply an occupational hazard in the surrogacy industry?
[India] Blanket ban likely on NRIs, PIOs, foreigners having kids through surrogacyThe Economic TimesOctober 15th, 2015A draft bill limits intended parents to Indian residents, allows single and divorced women to contract as surrogates, and addresses healthcare for women during surrogacy.
Surrogacy as an Iceberg: 90 Percent Below Waterby Emma ManiereBiopolitical TimesOctober 14th, 2015While agencies market surrogacy as a fulfilling “journey,” they also caution prospective consumers about ethical and financial pitfalls. These contradictory messages reflect the true complexity of commercial surrogacy.
Video Review: Talking Biopolitics[cites CGS and CGS fellow Lisa Ikemoto]by Rebecca DimondBioNewsOctober 12th, 2015George Annas spoke with Lisa Ikemoto about his new book on genomic medicine and genetic testing.
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