What is surrogacy? Definition, Terms
For many people, there is a strong desire to raise a family. Unfortunately, various medical conditions can result in struggles getting pregnant or carrying a healthy baby to term. For those in the LGBTQ+ community, more options are being sought out to form families.
What is Surrogacy?
Let’s start with the two most basic definitions: the surrogacy definition and the surrogate definition.
Surrogacy refers to the practice by a person (called a surrogate) of becoming pregnant and giving birth to a baby in order to intentionally give that child to someone else.
Surrogates are persons who become pregnant by artificial insemination (“traditional” surrogacy) or by implantation of a fertilized egg created by in vitro fertilization (“gestational” surrogacy) for the purpose of carrying the fetus to term for another person or persons.
Note: Surrogacy has meaning in other areas, but our focus will be on surrogacy and parenting.
Below, you will find more important definitions and terms.
Is Surrogacy Legal
For many decades, surrogacy has not been consistently legally recognized, especially if there was a contractual/financial arrangement between the surrogate and the intended parents. Within the last decade, there has been a change in surrogacy laws at the state, federal and international level.
Currently, there are only a handful of US states that currently have legal penalties for entering into a compensated surrogacy agreement and/or declare surrogacy contracts unenforceable – Michigan, Nebraska, Louisiana, Indiana and Arizona. It is also important to understand that not all states are surrogacy-friendly for members of the LGBTQ+ community or single parents by choice.
For persons who want or need surrogacy and live in states where it is prohibited by law, they do have the option of seeking a surrogate in a state where it is legal, but it is important to consult with an attorney about jurisdiction and how a legal disputes and parentage orders will be handled (ie whose name goes on the birth certificate and is declared the legal parents of the child).
Important Definitions and Terms Related Surrogacy
Gaining a better understanding of surrogacy requires familiarity with common terms one might encounter. To that end, here are some of the key definitions and terms:
This would be the individual(s) for whom the surrogate will be carrying a child. Intended parents can be heterosexual or couples within the LGBTQ+ community. Surrogates also work with single parents by choice.
Egg or Sperm Donor
This would be the individual or individuals who are donating the egg and or sperm that is used to create the embryo that is transferred to the surrogate. In many cases, egg and sperm come from the intended parents. However, known contributors or anonymous donors may provide egg and/or sperm.
In Vitro Fertilization
This is the medical process during which an embryo is created to be transferred to the surrogate. The fertility clinic will extract eggs and sperm from the Intended Parent(s) or donor(s). The egg is fertilized with the sperm and eventually they grow to form embryos (note not all fertilized eggs will develop into embryos for use). The embryos are then frozen and transferred at a later time to a surrogate who will carry the child until birth.
This is the organization that brings together surrogates and intended parents. Persons from a surrogate agency will generally participate in any negotiations that might include costs and compensation for the surrogate, facilitate screening of the surrogate, and help refer Intended Parents to professional services.
This is the medical facility that performs screening tests on the surrogate, creates embryos through in vitro fertilization, and performs the transfer procedure after administering medications and monitoring the progress of the surrogate.
The Importance of Surrogacy in Our Society
After reading surrogacy definitions, the whole surrogacy concept might seem a bit sterile and impersonal. The reality is this is a very personal process for the people who participate in it.
For the intended parents, it is often an opportunity for them to fulfill a lifelong dream of being parents and raising a family. It’s important to remember that most of the people who turn to surrogacy do so because they learn they are unable to conceive through “normal” means. For a lot of people, that’s devastating news. But surrogacy gives people hope.
For the surrogate, there is a deep sense of personal fulfillment after helping someone have the family of their dreams. Surrogacy (and pregnancy) does come with challenges and that’s one of the reasons most surrogacy agreements include some form of compensation.
In the final analysis, surrogacy plays an important role in family building in America. What is surrogacy? It’s a gift that gives individuals and couples a chance to experience the joy of parenthood.