A relationship in which one woman bears and gives birth to a child for a person or a couple who then adopts or takes legal custody of the child; also called mothering by proxy. In surrogate motherhood, one woman acts as a surrogate, or replacement, mother for another woman, sometimes called the intended mother, who either cannot produce fertile eggs or cannot carry a pregnancy through to birth, or term. Surrogate mothering can be accomplished in a number of ways. Most often, the husband's sperm is implanted in the surrogate by a procedure called Artificial Insemination. In this case, the surrogate mother is both the genetic mother and the birth, or gestational mother, of the child. This method of surrogacy is sometimes called traditional surrogacy. Less often, when the intended mother can produce fertile eggs but cannot carry a child to birth, the intended mother's egg is removed, combined with the husband's or another man's sperm in a process called in vitro fertilization (first performed in the late 1970s), and implanted in the surrogate mother. This method is called gestational surrogacy. Surrogacy arrangements are categorized as either commercial or altruistic. In commercial surrogacy, the surrogate is paid a fee plus any expenses incurred in her pregnancy. In altruistic surrogacy, the surrogate is paid only for expenses incurred or is not paid at all. The first recognized surrogate mother arrangement was made in 1976. Between 1976 and 1988, roughly 600 children were born in the United States to surrogate mothers. Since the late 1980s, surrogacy has been more common: between 1987 and 1992, an estimated 5,000 surrogate births occurred in the United States. The issue of surrogate motherhood came to national attention during the 1980s, with the Baby M case. In 1984 a New Jersey couple, William Stern and Elizabeth Stern, contracted to pay Mary Beth Whitehead $10,000 to be artificially inseminated with William Stern's sperm and carry the resulting child to term. Whitehead decided to keep the child after it was born, refused to receive the $10,000 payment, and fled to Florida. In July 1985, the police arrested Whitehead and returned the child to the Sterns. Does Surrogacy Involve Making Families or Selling Babies?
Medical science continues to devise new procedures and treatments that test the boundaries of law and ethics. One such result is modern surrogate motherhood, which has been made possible by Artificial Insemination and in vitro fertilization. Surrogate motherhood has both advocates and detractors, each with strong arguments in their favor. A number of important questions lie at the heart of the debate over the ethics and legality of surrogacy: Does surrogacy necessarily involve the exploitation of the woman serving as the surrogate mother, or turn her into a commodity? What rights does the surrogate mother have? Is surrogacy equivalent to baby selling? Should brokers or third parties be allowed to make a profit from surrogacy arrangements? The Case Against Surrogacy Nearly all opponents of surrogacy find it to be a morally repugnant practice, particularly when it involves a commercial transaction. Many base their opposition on religious grounds, whereas others judge it using philosophical, legal, or political criteria. The Roman Catholic Church is just one of many religious institutions that oppose surrogacy. It is against all forms of surrogacy, even altruistic surrogacy, which does not involve the payment of a fee to the surrogate. It holds that surrogacy violates the sanctity of marriage and the spiritual connection between mother, father, and child. It finds commercial surrogacy to be especially offensive. Commercial surrogacy turns the miracle of human birth into a financial transaction, the church maintains, reducing the child and the woman bearing it to objects of negotiation and purchase. It turns women into reproductive machines and exploiters of children. The church argues that surrogacy also leads to a...
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