If you lived through the 80s, you’re probably aware of that famous surrogacy case known simply as the Baby M case. Just to give you a briefer: Mary Beth Whitehead entered into a contract with William Stern and his wife Elizabeth. Mrs. Whitehead agreed to be inseminated with Mr. Stern’s sperm, and if the procedure becomes a success, carry the baby then give up her parental rights once the baby is born for $10,000.
After the baby was born, Mary Beth asked Elizabeth if the baby could stay with her for a couple of days. Elizabeth agreed. When the baby was not returned to the Sterns on the agreed date, the Sterns asked the help of the local police department to check on the Whiteheads. When the cops arrived at their home, the Whiteheads decided to flee with two of their kids and Baby M to Florida. After 87 days, the Whiteheads were found. The New Jersey Supreme Court gave the custody to the Sterns with visitation rights by the Whiteheads.
That particular case is monumental in the issue of surrogacy. It forced the nation to debate about something that has been kept taboo for years. It paved way for lawmakers to peep through the world of third party reproduction.
Surrogacy comes with a moral, ethical, legal, health, and even religious dilemma. But before we execute judgment regarding the issue, let’s first take a look on what it really is.
What is Surrogacy and what is a Surrogate Mother?
Surrogacy is the practice by which a woman (surrogate mother) carries and gives birth to a child for the intended parents (couple who cannot conceive or chose not to because of certain reasons such as having a medical disorder).
Types of Surrogacy:
There are two types of surrogacy: Traditional and Gestational. In Traditional Surrogacy, the egg comes from the surrogate mother. It is fertilized through the process of artificial insemination. The intended father’s sperm is instilled via the intracervical (into the cervix) or intrauterine (into the uterus) insemination. In this method, the baby has a direct genetic relation to the surrogate mother.
Gestational Surrogacy uses In Vitro Fertilization. The intended parents’ egg and sperm are fertilized in a petri dish or other glass container – hence the term in vitro, meaning “in glass”. Forty hours after fertilization, the fertilized eggs are transferred to the surrogate mother’s uterine cavity. Usually, two fertilized eggs are transferred if the mother is less than 35 years old, and five if the mother is older than 40. The surrogate mother is not genetically related to the baby in this case.
Who uses Surrogacy?
- Couples who cannot conceive due to age, physiologic factors, or illness
- Someone (either the husband or the wife) who has a known genetic disorder and doesn’t want it to be transferred to the baby
- A woman with a strong history of miscarriage
- A person who had a vasectomy or bilateral tubal ligation
- Same-sex couples
Is it legal?
There is no universal legal framework on surrogacy yet, but some countries allow it while others are against it. The countries that allow Altruistic Surrogacy (the surrogate mother is not compensated) are Australia, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Belgium, and Canada with the exception of Quebec.
Commercial Surrogacy (the surrogate mother is compensated) is permitted in Russia, India, Ukraine, and some parts of the United States. Both forms of surrogacy are prohibited in Iceland, Spain, Portugal, France, Finland, Bulgaria, Germany, Japan, Hong Kong, Pakistan, Serbia, Thailand, and Italy.
How much does it cost?
Again, this depends on the country. The United States is currently the most expensive country to have this done according to the Families Thru Surrogacy. Surrogacy – from screening to legal fees – in the U.S. costs $100,000. The cheapest is the Greek Islands at roughly $41,000.
Surrogacy has been a beacon of hope to those who have the most virtuous of intentions. Unfortunately, surrogacy comes with a dark side, too. It has been abused by some. Mothers are exploited and some unjustly treat babies as mere commodities that can be returned or terminated.
The Gammy Case last year highlighted the latter. Australian couple, David (a reported sex offender) and Wendy Fernell, asked the surrogate mother Pattaramon Chanbua to have one of the twins that she’s carrying aborted because of Down Syndrome. She refused, so the couple left Gammy and took the other one back to Australia.
In conclusion, a strong law that clearly defines all the aspect of surrogacy is needed to protect all parties involved, especially the babies because they never asked to be born, and yet, they suffer the most.
I am pregnant!! It’s my friend’s baby, it’s going to be a boy.. Just found out the IVF transfer worked!!! Yay!! Very excited to fulfill my friend’s wishes.. I haven’t told many people. I fear I’ll be judge and they will hurt my feelings. There are very cruel people out there.( so if you are one. Please, stop). I am a Surrogate mother.