A Better Understanding of Surrogacy

Surrogacy is an arrangement in which a woman, the surrogate mother, carries and delivers a child for another couple or person, the ‘intended or commissioning parent(s)’. The surrogate mother may be the child’s genetic mother (“traditional” or partial surrogacy), or she may be biologically unrelated to the child (“gestational” or full surrogacy).

Gestational surrogacy (also known as Host or Full)

Involves the implantation of an embryo created using either: the eggs and sperm of the intended parents; a donated egg fertilised with sperm from the intended father; or an embryo created using donor eggs and sperm.

Traditional surrogacy (also known Partial or Traditional)

Involves sperm from the intended father and an egg from the surrogate. Here fertilisation is usually done by artificial insemination or intrauterine insemination (IUI).

If the surrogate mother receives compensation beyond the reimbursement of medical and other reasonable expenses, the arrangement is called ‘commercial surrogacy,’ otherwise it is often referred to as altruistic surrogacy.

In the United Kingdom, commercial surrogacy is illegal, unless it is clear that only “reasonable expenses” were paid to the surrogate. Surrogacy arrangements are also not legally enforceable in UK courts even if a contract has been signed and the expenses of the surrogate have been paid. The surrogate mother has the legal right to keep the child, even if it is not genetically related to her because under English law the woman who carries and bears the child is the legal mother. Due to legal restrictions and limited numbers of surrogates in the UK, couples are increasingly seeking international surrogacy.

In contrast, in the United States, surrogacy agreements and contracts are legal and enforceable in most states. Although there are a reasonably high number of clinics that administer medical techniques for surrogacy-based pregnancies, many people decide to opt for international surrogacy due to the significant reduction in costs abroad.