What You Need to Know About the History of Surrogacy

If you’re considering surrogacy in South Carolina, you probably already know a little bit about how surrogacy works. But, have you ever thought about the history of surrogacy — and how it got to be where it is today?

As you research the possibilities for surrogacy yourself — whether to add to your family or help someone else become a parent — it’s important to have as much information as possible. That should include knowing about the history of surrogacy.

Here at the Law Offices of James Fletcher Thompson, we are dedicated to giving you all the information you need to make the best decision for your family. That’s why we are happy to answer any of your questions about our surrogacy program when you call us at 864-573-5533 or contact us online.

In the meantime, learn a bit more about the history of surrogacy in the United States — and what it means for you — below.

How It All Began: Traditional Surrogacy

Surrogacy isn’t a new idea; the first mention of surrogacy can be found in “The Book of Genesis,” in which a servant named Hagar carried Abraham’s child, whom after birth his wife Sarah raised as her own.

Still, when you research surrogacy today, you’ll find that the vast majority of surrogacy journeys completed are gestational (in which a surrogate is not related to the child she carries). But, it wasn’t always that way. Until medical advances made it possible, a surrogate had to be related to the child she carried for intended parents.

For centuries, any kind of traditional surrogacy had to be achieved through traditional conception or, starting in the 1880s, through artificial insemination. The shame and stigma of infertility and illegitimate children made any mention of traditional surrogacy taboo for centuries — a taboo that unfortunately still remains among those who are unfamiliar with how surrogacy really works today.

While traditional surrogacy in one form or another existed for years, the first legal surrogacy agreement was not created until 1976. At this point, lawyer Noel Keane brokered a traditional surrogacy agreement where the surrogate was not paid for her services. He would later use his experience to open the Infertility Center, which would go on to arrange hundreds of surrogate pregnancies in the years to come.

Keane’s first legal surrogacy agreement would lead the way for the first compensated surrogacy arrangement. Brokered in 1980, it involved a woman named Elizabeth Kane, who was paid $10,000 to be a traditional surrogate. Unfortunately, she eventually regretted her choice to be a surrogate and recounted her experiences in a book called Birth Mother.

How the “Baby M.” Case Changed the History of Surrogacy

For many years, any kind of surrogacy arrangement went unregulated. But, that all changed with the beginning of the “Baby M.” case in 1984. Intended parents Bill and Betsy Stern hired surrogate Mary Beth Whitehead to carry their child. They agreed to pay her $10,000 for her traditional surrogacy services.

Unfortunately, after the baby was born, Whitehead refused to sign over her parental rights and instead took custody of baby Melissa (“Baby M.”). The custody battle took a few years to resolve, but the damage to the surrogacy industry was done. New Jersey (where the custody case took place) soon outlawed all surrogacy arrangements, and many states across the country followed suit with restrictions on this family-building process.

Because of this case and the media frenzy surrounding it, this era in the history of surrogacy in the United States was fraught with misunderstanding and strict surrogacy laws where there were none before.

The Rise of Gestational Surrogacy

So, exactly how long has surrogacy been around in the form we know it as today?

The first gestational surrogacy was actually completed while the “Baby M.” case was still being debated, when the first baby born through this method came into the world in 1985. This, combined with the recent controversy surrounding traditional surrogacy, marked the beginning of the turn to gestational surrogacy instead.

In vitro fertilization had been around since 1978, although the concept of using a donor egg or the intended mother’s egg for a surrogacy journey was uncommon. But, it soon became the new standard. In response, surrogacy professionals across the U.S. began to establish ways that intended parents could protect their rights in surrogacy. These professionals also began to set safe and legal protocols for gestational surrogacies in accordance with their state laws.

Today, gestational surrogacy continues to grow as a socially acceptable and viable way for people to add to their families. Between 2004 and 2008 alone, almost 5,000 children were born via surrogacy in the U.S. — a rate that has surely grown since then.

Clearly, the history of surrogacy has come a long way. Here at the Law Offices of James Fletcher Thompson, we are always ready for the most recent developments in the surrogacy industry. In the meantime, we are happy to guide you through the current surrogacy environment in South Carolina. Our program has been around for years and, in that time, our team of professionals has created a safe, practical and legal process for our intended parents and gestational carriers in this state.

Want more information on how surrogacy works in South Carolina today? Don’t hesitate to reach out to our team. We can answer all of your questions and, when you’re ready, help you create a surrogacy plan that is perfect for your needs.

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