Deciding to start a family is a huge step for any couple. If it’s going to be done successfully, it requires huge amounts of planning, investment, and, of course, time. For most couples, it is the investment and planning for the future that prove to be the biggest challenges, but for some couples, the biggest hurdles are right in the beginning. For many different reasons, not every couple can conceive a baby and have it born through traditional pregnancy and childbirth.
A woman, for example, may have a disease, such as HIV that doesn’t necessarily impact her health currently, but if she has a baby, she will transmit that disease to the developing fetus. In other cases, a woman may have medical considerations, such as a heart condition that would endanger both herself and the baby due to the intense biological demands pregnancy makes on the body.
An Age-Old Solution
Of course, just because there may be medical or biological factors, in the 21st century, this doesn’t mean that couples have no choice but to remain childless. Two very old solutions are viable even today. One, of course, is adoption, where a couple takes on a child with no family who is badly in need of a loving environment.
The other solution is surrogacy, which is where the couple forms an agreement with a woman medically evaluated and deemed suitable to sustain a safe, healthy pregnancy. She agrees to become pregnant on behalf of the couple and, when the baby is born, unites the newborn with the hopeful couple to start a new family.
However, surrogacy, while documented as far back as even the Biblical era, is not universally practiced or accepted the same way around the world. Depending on where you live, you may have some, all, or no access to surrogacy as defined by different national laws.
Some countries have made surrogacy of any kind illegal. This means that for couples that risk working with a surrogate mother in these nations, the surrogate mother is considered the parent of the child, with the custody rights that entails, while the couple may only have custody rights for the man, if he donated sperm, or not at all. It’s highly inadvisable to consider defying these laws, since it may result in the forcible seizure of the child, should a couple attempt to ignore everything and raise the child.
Some countries, particularly in Europe, have taken this stance. France and Germany are two of the larger examples, although, in some larger countries, there is a difference in laws at the regional level. In Canada, for example, the province of Quebec is the only region where surrogacy is banned, but other provinces have permitted it.
There are other parts of the world where the government “hasn’t made up its mind” one way or the other, and so hopeful couples are taking a gamble when having a child in these areas. In some cases, the courts, since no law is in place, may choose on an individual judge basis to award custody to a couple. In other cases, however, the lack of law can also work against a couple, and result in custody not being granted.
Some states in the USA operate in this “grey area” of having no law in place permitting or forbidding surrogacy. States like Alaska and Georgia have no laws in place one way or the other. However, in Alaska, judges at an individual level tend to treat surrogacy like adoption, while in Georgia, a similar case-by-case basis is taken.
Altruistic Surrogacies Permitted
This is one of the most common laws throughout the world. The “altruistic” or “compassionate” surrogacy is more about defining the finances behind the surrogacy. With this arrangement, a surrogate mother will receive financial support to cover her living expenses as required during the pregnancy, as well as the associated medical costs involved with ensuring her health, that of the baby, and, when the time comes, giving birth.
That is the extent of the financial investment involved in having the baby for the hopeful couple. The surrogate mother gets no additional compensation and is essentially volunteering the use of her uterus as an act of generosity.
Compensated Surrogacies Permitted
This is less common, but in some ways, more popular. Unlike the altruistic/compassionate surrogacy, a surrogate mother in a compensated surrogacy gets significant financial recognition for the role she plays. This is, in essence, a classic “business transaction” where the surrogate mother is paid for services rendered, in addition to her living expenses and medical costs.
As a result, countries or states, provinces, and other regions where compensated surrogacies are legal tend to have the largest pool of suitable candidates for surrogacy. With a significant financial incentive that can sometimes make a huge difference in a person’s life, more women are willing to take on the role, and hopeful couples tend to have many more choices to work with.