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What is Commercial Surrogacy?

By Amanda Barnhart
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Commercial surrogacy is the process in which an individual or couple pays a fee to a woman in exchange for her carrying and delivering a baby. At birth, the child is turned over to the individual or couple, either privately or through a legal adoption process. Couples with fertility problems, same-sex couples, and single people who wish to be parents are the most common types of people who seek surrogate mothers. Some celebrities, including Robert De Niro, Kelsey Grammer, and Sarah Jessica Parker, have used surrogates as recently as 2009.

Surrogate mothers may get pregnant through intercourse that may or may not involve the child’s parent. Other surrogacy contracts involve artificial insemination, either at a clinic or at home. In vitro fertilization, a method wherein eggs are fertilized with sperm outside the womb, and implanted in the mother later, is less common for surrogates due to the cost involved, but it is a possible method.

In the United States and many European countries, the issue of commercial surrogacy is often scrutinized heavily by local and federal governments. Some U.S. states ban surrogacy contracts altogether, while others allow them with certain restrictions. Surrogacy is legal in England, but agencies that charge a fee for finding a surrogate mother are not. As of 2010, surrogacy was completely illegal in France, Germany, Norway, Italy, and several other countries, regardless of whether it is for profit or not. Strict laws in such developed countries have led to a rise in international surrogacy in lesser developed nations, such as India, which legalized commercial surrogacy in 2002.

In the United States, many surrogate mothers are paid tens of thousands of dollars to carry a baby. The couple or individual paying the mother may also pay for her medical expenses and provide her with other, non-monetary compensation, like transportation and food. In India, the cost of a surrogate mother is far less, and international surrogacy can allow people who want a baby to avoid many of the legal restrictions common in North America and Europe.

Countries that have declared commercial surrogacy illegal usually cite ethical reasons for the decision. Some see paying for a surrogate mother as renting or buying the human body or a human life. Proponents of surrogacy arrangements maintain that the process is mutually beneficial, allowing the pregnant mother to earn money, while providing a child to people who may not otherwise be able to experience parenthood.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By Esther11 — On May 15, 2011

Commercial surrogacy and especially international surrogacy is a difficult matter. It seems more ethical when the egg and sperm of a couple are fertilized outside the womb, and then the embryo is implanted in the surrogate mom. It also seems more ethical when the surrogate mom is a close relative or friend, and doesn't ask for a payment for herself, except for expenses. But, this method costs a lot of money.

For couples, gay couples or singles who don't have a lot of money, but desperately want a baby, may choose another method, like intercourse or artificial insemination. Some go to India or other poorer countries to arrange for a surrogate mom. The laws there are less strict.

If someone is profiting by providing a baby,is this the right thing to do? Any ideas on this?

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