Surrogacy is where a couple contracts a third party to incubate their zygote to full term, when the couple gains legal custody of the baby. The practice is illegal in Europe, but permitted in the United States. The EU-funded SURROGARTS (Assisted reproduction beyond the nation state and nuclear family? Transition to parenthood and negotiating relatedness in gay father families created through transnational surrogacy) project examined how involved parties experience family formation. The parties include gay couples, surrogates, egg donors, and agency and medical personnel. The study considered how contextual factors (such as gender and sexuality, political geography and institutions, social class and also race) affect surrogacy practices and meanings. Researchers also examined the extent to which surrogacy challenges conventional family values. Project personnel first conducted fieldwork in the United States, consisting of qualitative interviews with 37 gay fathers in 20 families. The team also interviewed 20 surrogates, 5 egg donors and 15 American fertility professionals. A subsequent phase involved analysis, writing-up of results and dissemination. Results indicated that all involved viewed surrogacy positively. Nevertheless, some participants highlighted areas of concern, including the number of embryos transferred to the surrogate and the extent of informed consent. Participants also worried about psychological support, post-partum care, medical insurance for surrogates, citizenship for the child and mobility issues for European parents. Researchers identified the importance of socioeconomic stratification in the context of surrogacy. Most of the gay fathers represented the upper middle class, while the surrogates were generally lower middle class. Nevertheless, surrogates expected equality; thus, women of low socioeconomic class were excluded, while half of the surrogates had higher education. Surrogacy opens up family formation options for those who would otherwise have none, despite being structured by social hierarchies. The team found that two narratives frame surrogacy in the United States. One story-trend involved relationship and friendship among parties. A second involved transactional compensation specifically to exclude all parties other than parents from family relationships. The project’s results inform the public about the complexity of the surrogacy issue in the United States. The team prepared recommendations intended to help all parties.
Surrogacy, family formation, SURROGARTS, assisted reproduction, parenthood