Surrogate Pregnancy: Social Trend, Legal Reformation, or the Next American Family?
In recent years, more and more fertile women have been choosing to become surrogate mothers. According to the Organization of Parents through Surrogacy, there are over a thousand surrogate births per year. The medical reasons for which an infertile couple might choose surrogacy are clear: surrogacy bypasses an intended mother’s inability to carry a child, results in live births more often than traditional IVF, and minimizes the chances of multiple births. However, there may also be more than simply medical reasons for the rise in surrogate births. Perhaps, we are witnessing a social trend, a redefining of the concept of “family,” a legal reformation – or even all of the above.
Surrogacy: a Social Trend?
Surrogacy appears to be becoming more normalized and less of a social “issue.” The increasing social acceptability of surrogacy is reflected in:
- Celebrity news – Numerous celebrities have enjoyed, and gone public about, their parenthood through surrogacy. These celebs include Angela Basset, Robert DeNiro, Karen Duffy, Peri Gilpin, Joan Lunden, Laurie Metcalf, and Dennis Quaid.
- Film – Baby Mama, a humorous representation of some of the potential issues and benefits of surrogate pregnancy, is the first box-office hit to revolve around the issue of surrogacy.
Does the recent prevalence of surrogacy in popular culture indicate that it has become a popular trend, or does it signify something deeper?
Surrogacy: Redefining “Family”?
Unlike surrogate pregnancies of the past, which tended to be anonymous, there appears to be a growing trend among intended parents toward being involved in the lives of their surrogate. For example, some couples are throwing “surrogate showers,” in which both intended and surrogate mothers are acknowledged for their respective roles in the conception, birth, and parenting of the child. While this change in the parent-surrogate relationship may be purely functional – it helps surrogate mothers to recover emotionally and fosters the intended parents’ involvement with the pregnancy – perhaps it points, too, to a changing perception of what constitutes a “family.”
Surrogacy: A Legal Reformation?
In some states, new surrogacy laws have been enacted that protect all participants in the pregnancy. These laws restrict who can participate in a surrogate pregnancy; often, a surrogate must fall into a certain age range and have children of her own, and the intended couple must have a medical need for surrogacy. Some laws also prohibit traditional surrogacy (in which the surrogate’s egg is used) in favor of gestational surrogacy (only the sperm and egg of the couple are used), and require that an escrow agent be involved if there is to be financial compensation for the pregnancy. All parties must undergo psychological and medical evaluations. Perhaps the increase in the surrogacy rate is merely the result of the enactment of protective laws?
With an issue as complex and personal as surrogate pregnancy, it is likely that its increasing visibility and acceptability reflect social, political, legal, and personal evolution. As for the long-term impact of surrogate parenthood on society, only time will tell.
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