The Definition Of Surrogacy

The Definition of Surrogacy sign

The fundamental and foremost aspect of surrogacy is a woman’s voluntary agreement and willingness to help someone else.  Therefore, any cases that may appear to be surrogacy, feel like surrogacy or even be labeled as surrogacy, but lack evidence of the woman’s genuine consent, should not be classified as surrogacy.  


Though making this distinction might seem pedantic, its practical implications are far-reaching.  If there is no verifiable proof of a woman’s voluntary agreement in a surrogacy arrangement, it raises concerns of possible inducement, coercion, or force to carry a baby against her will.  Such situations cannot be deemed surrogacy.


As professionals in this field, we should never hesitate to challenge or report any instances where voluntary agreement is in doubt, concluding firmly that “This is not surrogacy. It is something else.”


Neglecting to address these issues can undermine the trust and integrity of this precious field. Additionally, considering the arguments made by opponents of surrogacy, who label it as social coercion, leading to economically disadvantaged women carrying babies for the wealthy, we must remain vigilant in protecting the rights and well-being of all involved.


Ultimately, if a woman is coerced into a pregnancy, it harms her and impacts us all, and such situations cannot be rightfully termed surrogacy.


Other opponents argue that surrogacy exploits women, and they need protection from such exploitation. The argument that women cannot knowingly or intelligently agree to gestate and deliver a baby for intending parents carries worrying overtones. That reasoning has obstructed women from attaining equal economic rights and status under the law.  It must be recognized that every woman has the right to decide about surrogacy for themselves, so long as she is not coerced.  This applies to all women, not just those who are poor or less educated. 


Given the significance of voluntary consent, it becomes imperative for every surrogacy relationship to be able to provide proof that the arrangement is indeed a voluntary one.  Ensuring this essential element is established helps protect the integrity of the surrogacy process and respects the autonomy and agency of all women involved.  Several steps can be taken to ensure that surrogates have indeed volunteered and agreed to participate, namely:



Mental Health Professional


There must be documented proof that the surrogate underwent a private psychological evaluation paid for by the agency, the intended parent, or the agency.   A letter from a licensed mental health professional should suffice as proof for this meeting and assessment.



Independent Legal Representation


She has been represented by independent legal counsel who is not employed or related by family to the agency or intended parent.  A legal clearance letter from the independent attorney must confirm that the consultation was conducted in her native language.  Such a letter is sufficient evidence that she received independent legal advice.





The surrogate must sign the legal Agreement after a consultation with an independent legal counsel. Contracts must be offered to the surrogate in her native language.   If she cannot read, the contract needs to be read to her, and the session should be visually recorded as proof that she was given all the time she needed to understand the agreement and to ask questions that were fully answered.



Terminate Contract


The legal agreement must contain a clause stating that the surrogate can change her mind about participating at any time before the embryo transfer at no cost to herself and her family.  It should clearly state that the parties intend that the intended parents will be the sole parents of the child, and their names will be entered on the birth certificate.



Ongoing Counseling


The surrogate must have access to a mental health professional, at no cost to herself, at any time during the pregnancy and for at least six months post-delivery.





The Surrogate must be guaranteed her compensation and reimbursements.  No deductions can be taken by the agency, professional, or person.  Said compensation must be paid out over the term of the pregnancy and not a lump sum upon birth.


Furthermore, professionals involved in third-party reproduction must safeguard against exploitation.  Such exploitation could adversely affect the well-being of future children born through surrogacy, potentially causing them to face embarrassment, negative labeling, teasing, or demeaning treatment.  As individuals who have contributed to bringing these children into the world, we must ensure they grow free from such burdens, fostering an environment of acceptance and understanding.


The significance of terminology in any professional field must be considered.  In the context of surrogacy, the word “use” should be avoided.  As an example:


The intended parents used a surrogate to start their families when they could not do so alone. The term “use” implies an imbalance of power or leverage between the parties, which is inaccurate and inappropriate in surrogacy.  Independent legal counsel must represent both parties in a surrogacy relationship, and all parties should have access to a mental health professional.


To draw a parallel, doctors and nurses help their patients; they do not use them.  Surrogates express pride in assisting their intended parents in building a family.  Nearly 80% of surrogates choose to return for a second journey to help the same or different intended parents after delivering their first surrogate baby.  


Instead, perhaps we should embrace the phrase “helped by.” This phrase highlights the collaborative and empowering nature of surrogacy journeys.  It emphasizes the partnership between intended parents and surrogates, acknowledging the profound emotional and physical commitment both parties invest in throughout the experience.  By choosing this language, we honor the meaningful relationships formed and the respect, trust, and gratitude within the surrogacy community.


When approached ethically, surrogacy proves to be beneficial for all parties involved.



Author: Karen Synesiou, Infertility Portal, Inc.