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Commercial surrogacy, paying a woman to be pregnant with a child conceived with the egg and sperm of two other people, is legal in a few states in the United States, in Mexico, in Ukraine, and in India. Eager parents can face unanticipated problems.

Padma and Sanjay flew from London to India to meet their new son. Nine months earlier, the ecstatic couple had flown to a commercial surrogacy clinic to donate eggs and sperm to conceive a child, which was then implanted into a woman paid to carry their child to term. Moments after the child was delivered by cesarean section, their biological baby was in their arms. The woman who carried the child to term was crying in the delivery room, but happy to know she would soon be paid the equivalent of about $9,000, and unimaginable sum for most families in India, out of about $30,000 Padma and Sanjay paid to the clinic.


Paulo and João, a gay couple in Lisbon, flew to Los Angeles to meet their new son. Nine months earlier, they had traveled to the United States to donate sperm to fertilize an egg purchased from an American woman of Portuguese heritage, not knowing who would actually become the baby's biological father. Paulo and João paid altogether about $200,000 for the surrogacy and the procedures needed to sustain the pregnancy, about $50,000 going to the woman who was pregnant for them.

What Is Commercial Surrogacy?

Millions of heterosexual couples cannot have children because the female partner has some insurmountable problem in ovulation, conception, or carrying a child to term. Millions of male-male homosexual couples face a more obvious barrier to parenthood. For the past thirty years, however, modern technology has made "test tube babies" a reality, although at a huge financial burden to the would-be parents. Despite the availability of the technology, many countries, including Germany and much of the European Union, ban surrogate pregnancies altogether. The United Kingdom and Canada permit "altruistic surrogacy", a woman's becoming pregnant to support the wishes of another couple, usually people she knows, for free, but nine months of pregnancy is a lot to ask from a friend, much less a stranger.

The US (although not all states in the US), India, Mexico, and a few other countries, make it easier to find surrogates by allowing them to be paid.

Questions To Ask About Surrogacy In The USA

American medical care, if you have money, is of a very high standard, but America is nothing if not a land of litigation. To avoid future legal disputes, the rights of the prospective parents, the surrogate mother, and the child are carefully spelled out before the procedure is done. There are clear legal remedies if one or more of the parties fails to live up to their commitments, and there is a clear legal status for the baby when it is born (or the state does not permit the arrangement). Even in the USA, however, there are basic questions that prospective parents need to consider before they plunk down $100 thousand, $200 thousand, or occasionally even more to have a child:

  • Is the surrogacy agreement legal in the state in which it is offered? New York, for example, bans paid surrogate pregnancies, while California supports them. Don't rely on a clinic's word for the legality of a procedure. See your own attorney.
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  • Tamar Lewin, Coming to U.S. for Baby, and Womb to Carry It: Foreign Couples Heading to America for Surrogate Pregnancies, New York Times, 5 July 2014.Photo courtesy of JasonCorey via Flickr:
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