What is Commercial Surrogacy?
Commercial surrogacy refers to any surrogacy arrangement in which the surrogate mother is compensated for her services beyond reimbursement of medical expenses.
Commercial surrogacy is a complicated — and often controversial — topic.
While it can be difficult to find a single commercial surrogacy definition, the term generally refers to any surrogacy arrangement in which the surrogate mother is compensated for her services beyond reimbursement of medical expenses. The alternative to commercial surrogacy is altruistic surrogacy, in which a woman volunteers to carry a pregnancy for intended parents without receiving any monetary compensation in return.
Most altruistic surrogacies are between family members or close friends; for example, when a woman offers to carry a pregnancy for her sibling or child without compensation, this would be considered altruistic surrogacy. If you are working with a surrogacy professional to locate a surrogate, your surrogacy is most likely commercial.
There has been some debate over the ethics of commercial surrogacy. Critics of the practice feel that it takes advantage of vulnerable women, exploits the system of reproduction and commoditizes human life. However, surrogacy advocates argue that it is unfair for a woman to carry a baby for someone else and get nothing in return. Proponents of commercial surrogacy also believe it is best to openly allow the practice so that it can be regulated and so everyone’s rights can be protected.
While the commercial surrogacy debate is still ongoing, this form of surrogacy has helped thousands of infertile couples, single parents and members of the LGBT community add to their families. Read on to learn more about commercial surrogacy laws and the pros and cons of pursuing commercial vs. altruistic surrogacy.
Where is commercial surrogacy legal?
Ethical concerns have led some countries and U.S. states to ban or restrict commercial surrogacy arrangements. These commercial surrogacy laws are intended to protect women and children, but they also have some consequences that need to be considered. This section addresses commercial surrogacy laws in the United States and internationally, as well as some of the consequences these laws have had on surrogacy arrangements.
International Commercial Surrogacy
There are no internationally recognized surrogacy laws protecting intended parents, surrogate mothers and children. Some countries, including France, Germany, Italy and Spain, prohibit all forms of surrogacy, whereas others, including Australia, the United Kingdom and Denmark, allow only altruistic surrogacy. These limitations on surrogacy prevent many couples from pursuing this path to parenthood, and lead others to pursue commercial surrogacy where it is allowed — notably in countries like India, Thailand, Russia and Ukraine.
Intended parents will travel to these countries to find surrogate mothers, many of whom are willing to carry a pregnancy for much less pay than those in western countries like the United States. Thailand and India are some of the most common destinations for intended parents seeking inexpensive commercial surrogacies. Families through Surrogacy, an international surrogacy agency, estimates that surrogacy in India costs about $47,000, while surrogacy in the United States can cost $100,000 or more. Despite the United States’ better regulated surrogacy laws, this often makes countries like India a more attractive option for intended parents who need to pursue international surrogacy.
However, completing an inexpensive surrogacy in India or Thailand is very risky. While these countries may not have laws banning commercial surrogacy, they often do not have clear legal frameworks regulating surrogacy arrangements. This means that intended parents and surrogates are not well protected, and difficulties can arise in establishing legal parents and citizenship for babies born via international surrogacy.
Additionally, surrogacy opponents are often most critical of international commercial surrogacy. Critics often refer to these surrogacy agreements as “fertility tourism,” “surrogacy tourism” or “womb renting” because they argue that it exploits poor women in developing countries.
Commercial Surrogacy in the United States
Commercial surrogacy is legal in some U.S. states, while other states allow only altruistic surrogacy and some disallow surrogacy altogether.
Certain states that do allow commercial surrogacy, like California, have some of the most well-defined surrogacy laws in the world. This makes these states a popular destination for infertile couples in the United States and around the world who want to pursue commercial surrogacy and be assured that it is safe and their rights are protected.
The popularity of California as a surrogacy destination highlights the high global demand for commercial surrogates and echoes the opinion of commercial surrogacy advocates: that intended parents should be able to pursue commercial surrogacy in an environment where it is legal and well-regulated.
Pros and Cons of Commercial Surrogacy
Clearly, there are many arguments to be made for and against commercial surrogacy. The advantages and disadvantages of this type of surrogacy will also depend to some extent on where the surrogacy is completed, the relationship between the intended parents and the surrogate, and more. Each prospective intended parent should consider the benefits and challenges of commercial surrogacy, as well as their own individual goals and circumstances, as they decide whether this form of surrogacy is right for them.
Here is an overview of some of the pros and cons of commercial surrogacy:
- Commercial surrogacy allows women to be compensated fairly for their yearlong commitment to intended parents as well as the physical and emotional demands of pregnancy.
- In states and countries with well-defined laws, commercial surrogacy is legally regulated to protect the rights of the surrogate as well as the intended parents.
- Commercial surrogacy is an option for intended parents who do not want to pressure close friends or family members to make the sacrifices required of altruistic surrogacy.
- In commercial surrogacy, contracts are negotiated ahead of time to determine the monetary compensation the surrogate will receive, which can prevent disputes over reimbursements during and after the pregnancy.
- At least in the United States, most commercial surrogates do not pursue surrogacy solely for the compensation. All surrogacy involves some level of altruism, as every surrogacy requires compassion and sacrifice. Most women pursue surrogacy because they want to help build other families.
- Commercial surrogacy is more expensive than altruistic surrogacy because intended parents will be responsible for surrogate compensation in addition to medical and legal costs.
- Some opponents of commercial surrogacy argue that it exploits vulnerable women.
- Commercial surrogacy is illegal in some countries, forcing some intended parents to pursue international surrogacy, which can lead to legal and ethical complications.
Commercial surrogacy, when completed legally and ethically, can be a wonderful way for people to come together to help hopeful parents add to their families. Intended parents who are concerned about the legal or ethical implications of commercial surrogacy should work with an experienced professional in a country or state with clear surrogacy laws, and ensure their surrogate is compensated and treated fairly.
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