A Brief History of Surrogacy

Surrogacy wasn’t always a scientific medical process with legal contracts and consent from all parties. The Bible first mentions surrogacy in The Book of Genesis. According to the story, Abraham and Sarah used their servant, Hagar, to carry Abraham’s baby. Sarah and Abraham raised that child as their own. Today this would be known as traditional surrogacy because the surrogate used her own eggs.

Traditional surrogacy pregnancies are achieved by conventional methods. This was the only option until 1884, the year of the first successful human artificial insemination. Historically, because of the shame surrounding infertility and infidelity, the use of a surrogate was often kept secret, even from the child. These surrogacy arrangements still didn't involve contracts. 

The first surrogacy contract in the United States was written in 1976 by Michigan lawyer Noel Keane. This was an altruistic traditional surrogacy. The first surrogacy for compensation was completed in 1980. The surrogate received $10,000. This surrogate goes by the pseudonym of Elizabeth Kane. She wrote about her surrogacy experience in her book, Birth Mother. 

Noel Keane went on to make the contract for the Baby M case. Baby M, also known as Melissa Stern, was born via traditional surrogacy in 1986 in the United States. Mary Beth Whitehead carried Melissa and refused to give Melissa over to her parents with whom she had a surrogacy contract. The courts ended up ruling in favor of the parents, and Mary Beth did not get custody of Melissa. This event became famous and still gives a lot of people a negative view of surrogacy. Mary Beth went on to write about her experience in her book, A Mother's Story. 

Gestational surrogacy, where the surrogate is artificially inseminated with a third-party embryo, is a relatively new concept. It wasn’t until 1985 when the first gestational surrogate successfully carried and gave birth. It still took decades and some very difficult surrogacy journeys to establish all of the guidelines and requirements that we have in place now in the United States. Thankfully, it's common today to hear positive surrogacy stories. 

Amber Campanelli ~ The Honest Surrogate