Most people that decide to spend the rest of their lives together and start a family do so with traditional childbirth. A woman becomes pregnant, and nine months later, a baby born from the egg of one spouse, and the sperm of another is born, and a traditional family unit begins.
However, for other couples that wish to start a family, medical challenges make it risky or even impossible to take the route of traditional pregnancy. A woman with a heart condition endangers herself during pregnancy, while a woman with AIDS will pass that disease onto a child, even if her uterus is biologically capable of safely growing and nurturing a fetus. In other cases, health reasons have caused a woman to have her uterus surgically removed, and thus can’t conceive, while the same is true for same-sex male couples who want to have a child, but don’t want to adopt.
In these situations, surrogate motherhood is a viable solution. This is when another woman, medically evaluated to be healthy, and with previous experience in successfully giving birth, agrees to either artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization (IVF) to become pregnant. After she gives birth to a child, that child is then united with the hopeful parents, and a new family life begins.
Even though surrogacy is not just an ancient practice, it is also a well supported medical activity, there is still an important factor for hopeful families to consider and that is the legal ramifications. Surrogacy is, medically, a well-understood technique, but the law in different parts of the world varies widely about whether this practice is acceptable or not.
There are some countries where surrogacy is banned in every way, shape, and form at the federal level. In Europe alone, for example, both France and Germany have decreed surrogacy illegal. In practical terms, this means that should couples in these countries decide to engage a local surrogate mother, and the child is born, the hospitals are legally required to issue a birth certificate stating that the surrogate mother is the legal parent of the child, and the hopeful couple themselves have no legal claim to the child.
In other words, people that defy the law in these countries will find the law doesn’t recognize a surrogate baby as their child, and the surrogate mother will be legally required to raise the child and look after its welfare. The hopeful parents can attempt to raise the child, but legally, that child will never be considered theirs.
Some countries are divided up into states or provinces that have regional state or provincial governments. In these cases, it is up to the regional governments within the country to decide whether to accept surrogacy, or make it illegal.
Canada is a good example of this system at work. In most provinces in this country, surrogacy is legal, and the medical techniques can be safely practiced with legal mechanisms in place to protect the rights of the hopeful parents. However, the French Canadian province of Quebec is the one exception to this. The strong French Catholic culture of this province means that it is the only province where hopeful families face the same legal dilemmas of custody that French and German hopeful parents do.
The United States is another example where it is up to each state to decide whether or not surrogacy is legal and, if so, to what degree the legal ramifications of surrogacy are considered and defined within state law.
The final legal status of surrogacy for countries is one where, at the federal level, surrogacy has been legally recognized. In Europe, Georgia is an example of such a country, where even the constitution has documentation that lays out the rights of surrogate parents regarding custody of a child.
However, it’s important to note that even in countries where surrogacy is legal, there may be certain types of surrogacy that are legal, while others are not. In Georgia, for example, all types of surrogacy are legal; this includes altruistic and compensated.
The Surrogacy Classes
Altruistic or compassionate surrogacy, as it is also known, is a type of surrogacy where the surrogate mother agrees to volunteer herself and her uterus for the pregnancy and delivery of a child for “free.” Of course, in this situation, the surrogate mother doesn’t pay for her living expenses or her medical costs as the pregnancy progresses, this is handled by the hopeful parents, but beyond this basic survival support financially, she receives nothing else.
A compensated surrogacy, however, means that the surrogate mother is, in effect, “paid” for her efforts, and her enormous contribution to the process is rewarded with financial recognition. Not every country or region within a country legally recognizes compensated surrogacy. In Canada, for example, all the provinces only recognize altruistic surrogacy and compensated is illegal. In the USA, different states allow and ban compensated surrogacy.
It pays to do your research about how surrogacy laws apply in your country and region.