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The History of Surrogacy

Surrogacy has been around since the Book of Genesis, 2nd Millennium BC, when Sarah had reached the old age of 90 and was unable to conceive a child naturally with Abraham. Sarah and Abraham used Sarah's handmaid Hagar to undergo the first recorded case of traditional surrogacy. The Book of Genesis states Sarah told Abraham that, "The Lord has prevented me from bearing children". She then told Abraham, "Go in to my maid; it may be that I shall obtain children by her." Abraham, a vivacious 86 year old, followed his wife's advice by conceiving a child with Hagar and she successfully gave birth to Ishmael.

Speed forward to 1936 when the United States drug companies, Schering-Kahlbaum and Parke-Davis, began the production of estrogen. Estrogen is crucial to IVF as it prepares the uterus for pregnancy by thickening the uterine lining. Estrogen is taken at the beginning of the pregnancy until the pregnancy is positively confirmed.

In 1944, Harvard Medical School Professor, John Rock, became the first person to fertilize a human ovum outside of the uterus. John Rock is considered the pioneer of IVF, sperm freezing, and even the birth control pill. Thanks to John Rock cryopreservation is a way to preserve sperm cells by freezing them indefinitely to be successfully used for assisted reproductive procedures. In 1954, cryopreservation was applied to human beings resulting in three successful pregnancies by means of artificial insemination.

In 1976, a Michigan lawyer named Noel Keane wrote the first surrogacy contract in the United States. This ground breaking contract was the first and most famous surrogacy arrangement known as "the Case of Baby M".

Between 1985-1986 a woman by the name of, Mary Beth Whitefiled , carried the first gestational surrogacy pregnancy. In 1986, Melissa Stern aka "Baby M", was born in the United States. Mary Beth was paid and contracted to become a surrogate mother for the intended parents, William and Becky Stern. Unfortunately, the surrogate refused to give the baby to the couple as the agreement anticipated. Due to the fact the baby was conceived using the surrogate's egg, the New Jersey courts ultimately declared the surrogate as the biological mother, which ruled the surrogacy agreement illegal and invalid. However, the courts awarded the Stern family custody of the child instead of the surrogate. This case led both New Jersey and New York to deeming surrogacy illegal and "potentially damaging to women." The famous case of "Baby M" continues to rule as a precedence in New Jersey.

In 1990, surrogate mother Anna Johnson refused to give up the baby to intended parents Mark and Crispina Calvert. The couple sued her for custody in the case of Calvert v Johnson, which led to the couple establishing parental rights. The case legally defined the mother as the woman who intends to create and raise the child.

18,400 babies were born from gestational surrogacy between the years of 1999-2013. It is estimated about 750 babies are born each year through gestational surrogacy in the United States alone.

Surrogacy has come a long way in the eyes of the law since the famous court cases in the 80s and 90s. Check out our blog post on Surrogacy Friendly States to see what category your state is in.


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