Surrogacy in the Bible
If we want to get technical, the first recorded story of surrogacy comes from the Bible. Abraham’s wife Sarah could not bear him a child so she asked her servant, Hagar, to conceive with Abraham. Hagar gave Abraham a son, and Abraham and Sarah raised the child as their own. However, Sarah’s jealousy prompted the removal of Hagar from the home. Some accounts depict this tale as one of the earliest known cases of a traditional surrogacy.
Not only did Hagar serve as a traditional surrogate, contributing her egg and carrying the pregnancy, she also needed to conceive with Abraham. As IVF was not an option, Sarah’s jealousy is understandable. Hagar gave Sarah’s husband what Sarah could not.
The First Compensated Surrogacy
Fast forward a few thousand years and the first recorded surrogacy agreement, where the surrogate was given monetary compensation, took place in 1980. This was a traditional surrogacy, and the surrogate was paid $10,000 for it. The surrogate mother already had children of her own and had given one child up for adoption. Unfortunately for all involved parties, this surrogacy agreement took an overwhelming emotional toll on the surrogate and she struggled to accept the terms she had agreed to. The child did go with the intended parents but the traditional surrogate became an advocate against surrogacy because of her experience.
From this early case, we learned that, while any surrogacy can be an emotionally challenging experience for the surrogate, a traditional surrogacy also invokes questions regarding the biological mother’s (the surrogate’s) parental rights to the child.
The Case of Baby M
A few years later, in 1984, a couple contracted a woman to be their traditional surrogate. All parties signed a surrogacy agreement and agreed to $10,000 compensation for the surrogate. Once the child was born, the surrogate mother decided she could not part with the baby. The case went to trial and became known as the case of baby M.
After a long trial, the court decided that the biological mother (surrogate) did have rights to the child regardless of the signed surrogacy agreement. The biological father (intended father) was granted custody of the baby and the biological mother (surrogate) was granted visitation rights.
Because of the court’s ruling in the case of baby M, gestational surrogacy became the preferred and safer option for intended parents choosing surrogacy to grow their family. To protect future surrogacy agreements, it became critical to remove any biological connection between the child and the carrier, since the court ruled in favor of the surrogate (biological mother.
So, What Can We Learn from These Stories?
While there have been successful traditional surrogacies, there have also been emotionally challenging situations. The biological relationship between a traditional surrogate and the child is unavoidable. Gestational surrogacy agreements provide the perfect alternative. The history of surrogacy provides a clear explanation why gestational surrogacy has evolved into a very common, and successful, path.