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What are the Legal Rights of Surrogate Mothers?

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  • Written By: Autumn Rivers
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 02 November 2016
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The rights of surrogate mothers vary widely from one region to another, but there are a few common rules that most areas abide by. For example, in most cases, the surrogate mother has the right to expect her medical bills to be paid for, as long as they are associated with the pregnancy. She also typically has the right to change her mind about relinquishing the baby after delivery, as long as the child is biologically hers. Additionally, she can typically choose to have only limited contact with the couple paying her, as some women want to enjoy the pregnancy on their own.

Almost all surrogacy contracts stipulate that the couple hoping for a child is supposed to pay for the surrogate's medical costs. This is to keep surrogate mothers from having to pay for prenatal doctor visits, vitamins, and hospital charges. Of course, the couple is usually only required to cover costs associated with the pregnancy, but some may choose to also pay for other medical necessities so that the surrogate can remain as healthy as possible. Though coverage of medical costs is a general expectation, the details are usually left up to the parties involved.

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In some cases, a couple may be able to conceive, but the woman cannot carry the unborn baby to term due to problems with the uterus. Such couples may pay to have their embryo transferred into a surrogate mother so that they can have a child that is biologically theirs. Surrogate mothers who take this route do not usually have any rights to the baby since it is not related to them in any way, so they are legally required to relinquish him after the birth. On the other hand, couples with female fertility problems may choose to use the male's sperm to artificially inseminate the surrogate, meaning that the resulting baby is half hers. In such cases, the surrogate mother has the choice of not signing over rights after the birth, though this typically leads to a legal battle between herself and the couple.

Some surrogate mothers are happy about their ability to allow a couple to have a baby, and wish to stay in touch throughout the pregnancy. This permits the couple to ensure that the surrogate is taking good care of herself and the unborn baby, and also usually leads to a close bond between them. On the other hand, some surrogate mothers choose to have more limited contact with the couple, only meeting with them when necessary, and perhaps sending news about prenatal appointments. This is most common when couples use websites to find surrogates, especially when they live in different areas.

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Phaedrus
Post 2

@Buster29, I agree with most of what you've said, but sometimes the laws and logic don't mix. A woman who becomes pregnant, regardless of the circumstances, has at least some legal control over what happens to the child after birth. It's the same argument for abortion or adoption. The baby is still part of her body, and she can choose to terminate a pregnancy or place the child with an adoption agency. She can still change her mind about an adoption, so by extension she can legally change her mind about the surrogacy. I agree that it's horribly unfair to the couple, but it can still happen.

Buster29
Post 1

I honestly don't understand how a surrogate mother could have the legal right to keep the child after birth. What would be the point of the entire surrogacy process if the agreement could be breached by the birth "mother"? The way I see it, the birth mother contracted her services with an infertile couple and that's the way it needs to be. If the couple paid for all of the birth mother's medical and living expenses while she was pregnant, they have made a serious financial commitment. Unless the birth mother could prove fraud or lack of parental fitness, that child should belong to the couple.

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