The traditional road to motherhood eluded Vicki Juditz. Having waited until age 36 to start trying for a baby, the actress and writer soon learned that reproductive problems had reduced her chances of conceiving to about 1% (Zimmerman 1). In the article written by Janet Zimmerman after her interview of actress Vicki Juditz, Juditz explains, "My husband and I had very full lives and I guess we didn't feel the pressure, we thought everything would fall into place when we were ready. I just assumed I would have children some day" (Zimmerman 1). In vitro fertilization put Juditz and her husband on the path to parenthood and their surrogate helped them to get there. Their story is the subject of a play written and performed b Juditz and directed by her husband (Zimmerman 1). Juditz' surrogate explained that her motivation stemmed from her own uncertain ancestry; she wanted to help someone to have their biological child (Zimmerman 2). Having a biological link is the reason many prospective parents choose surrogacy over adoption. Surrogate parenting is an effective method of fertility treatment because the surrogate allows a childless couple to have their biological child. To understand surrogate parenting, one must know its history. The first gestational surrogate birth was reported in 1987. At this time, the country was shocked and the heated debate ensued. Since then, there have rarely been problems. According to Steven Litz, director of Center for Surrogate Parenting located in Annapolis, MD, "Of the 2000 or so births to surrogate mothers in the country, a woman has refused to relinquish the child less than 1% of the time." (Litz [Gen. Info]; 1). According to Michele St. Martin in her recent article "Building A Family Through Surrogate Parenting: Financial and Legal Implications," Mary Beth Whitehead was hired as a surrogate for William and Elizabeth Stern [and this] was the first and still is the most famous legal case. (St. Martin 1). After Baby M was born, Mary Beth Whitehead refused to give up parental rights to the child as was previously arranged in a pre-birth surrogacy agreement. Custody was awarded to William Stern and his wife was able to immediately adopt the baby through a stepparent adoption and Mary Beth Whitehead was allowed visitation rights (St. Martin 1). This court case was unusual: firstly because the surrogate refused to give up her baby, secondly because the surrogate was allowed visitation rights.
Mary Beth Whitehead was a traditional surrogate and Baby M's biological mother (St. Martin 2). St. Martin explains, "A traditional surrogate becomes pregnant when she is artificially inseminated by the intended father" (St. Martin 1). Much of surrogacy's controversy seems to stem from traditional surrogacy because those are the surrogates who hand over their parental rights.
Of all of the alternatives to traditional biological parenting, surrogacy is oftentimes the most sensationalized and misunderstood. There are terms one must know in order to fully understand surrogate parenting. The most important term to know is what exactly a surrogate mother is. According to Jenn Z, author of the article, "Different Types of Surrogacy," found on the Surro-Mom's website, "A surrogate mother is a woman who carries a child for someone else, usually an infertile couple" (Z 1).
There are three main types of surrogacy, the best known and the most common type being gestational surrogacy. Len Brooks, director of the Mid-Atlantic Center for Surrogacy, states, "A gestational surrogate becomes pregnant when embryos generated from the eggs and sperm of the intended parents are placed in the surrogate's uterus" (St. Martin 1). Brooks stresses the medical exams, legal representation and matching of the couples that surrogacy...