The History of Surrogacy

The history of surrogacy spans ancient times to modern-day, evolving significantly in terms of practices and technologies, as well as the legal and ethical frameworks surrounding it. Below is an overview of the key phases in the history of surrogacy:

One of the earliest records of surrogacy is found in the Bible with the story of Sarah and Abraham. Unable to conceive, Sarah offers her servant Hagar to Abraham to bear a child on her behalf.

Other ancient texts and records suggest that surrogate motherhood practices, or at least concepts akin to surrogacy, were present in some form in various civilizations, including Babylonia.

Surrogacy, for a long time, meant traditional surrogacy, where the surrogate mother was also the biological mother of the child. This typically involved natural or artificial insemination with the intended father’s sperm.

The first legally documented case of traditional surrogacy in the United States was arranged through lawyer Noel Keane, leading to the birth of a baby in 1976. This case paved the way for the commercial surrogacy industry.

The birth of Louise Brown, the first baby born through in vitro fertilization (IVF), marked a significant advancement in reproductive technologies.

The first successful gestational surrogacy, where the surrogate has no genetic link to the baby, was reported. This was made possible through the use of IVF, allowing the implantation of an embryo created from the intended parents’ (or donors’) egg and sperm into the surrogate’s uterus.

The practice of surrogacy began to face legal and ethical scrutiny, highlighted by the Baby M case in 1986 in the United States. This case, involving a custody dispute over a child born from a traditional surrogacy arrangement, brought to light the complex legal and emotional issues associated with surrogacy.

Many countries and states have developed laws and guidelines to regulate surrogacy, addressing ethical concerns, protecting the rights of all parties involved, and sometimes banning the practice altogether. Meanwhile, gestational surrogacy has become more common than traditional surrogacy, largely due to its avoidance of legal complications related to maternity.

The globalization of surrogacy has led to the rise of international surrogacy arrangements, where intended parents from countries with restrictive surrogacy laws or high costs turn to countries with more lenient regulations or lower costs. This has raised ethical and legal issues, including concerns about the exploitation of surrogate mothers, the statelessness of children, and the complexities of international law.

The history of surrogacy reflects broader changes in societal attitudes towards family, advancements in medical technology, and evolving legal and ethical standards. While it offers a path to parenthood for many who otherwise might not have the opportunity, surrogacy continues to generate debate and necessitates careful consideration by all parties involved. 

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