The History of Surrogacy: A Legal Timeline

A woman, known as the surrogate, agrees to carry and give birth to a child on behalf of another individual or couple, known as the intended parents, in a reproductive arrangement known as surrogacy.

For people or couples who are unable to conceive or bring a pregnancy to term for a variety of reasons—medical conditions, infertility, same-sex relationships, etc. surrogacy may be a choice. Before entering into a surrogacy agreement, all parties involved should thoroughly analyze and resolve the legal aspects of surrogacy, which vary greatly across various nations and even within areas. Ethical issues and providing emotional support to all parties involved are also essential factors to keep in mind during the surrogacy process. The development of surrogacy over time has been proven by a legal chronology that takes into account increasing public opinions and technological developments in reproductive health. The surrogacy goes back to ancient times when various cultures had different opinions on non-traditional ways to conceive.

In this blog, we will understand everything about the history of surrogacy and how surrogacy evolved.
When was surrogacy invented?
First successful surrogacy
History of surrogacy

When was surrogacy invented?

The history of surrogacy extends back thousands of years. It was common in some societies for women to act as surrogate mothers for other people in situations when a woman was unable to carry a pregnancy to term or experience infertility. In the 1970s and 1980s, traditional surrogacy gained popularity, in which the biological mother of the child was also the surrogate mother. The second decade of the 20th century marked the development of the modern surrogacy industry. Elizabeth Kane, a lady, agreed in 1985 to be a gestational surrogate for her daughter, who was unable to get pregnant after having an abortion. This was one of the first known instances of gestational surrogacy.

First successful surrogacy

Naturally, standard surrogacy by artificial reproduction wasn’t discovered until much later, even though Sarah and Abraham’s tale is the first known example of a natural “surrogacy.” The first case of fertilization that worked was in the 1770s. It included a patient who suffered from infertility as a result of hypospadias, an uncommon birth defect that affects male infants. A successful pregnancy resulted from the patient following Dr. John Hunter’s advice to use a syringe to fertilize his wife. It took longer for fertilization to become popular than donor sperm to become available. It took until 1964 for the first American sperm bank to open for infertility. The American sperm bank industry came to popularity in the 1970s, aiding in the conceiving of single women and couples.

History of surrogacy

Surrogacy has been around for a few decades and has changed a lot throughout that time. Here are some key points about surrogacy to know how long has surrogacy been around.


A lawyer by the name of Noel Keane prepared and handled the first surrogacy agreement in law in 1976. The surrogate received no financial compensation for her services, and the arrangement was made for a typical surrogacy. Throughout his life, Keane was a strong supporter of surrogacy. Over his career, he is believed to have assisted in the birth of over 600 children via surrogacy.

Initial Understanding With the development of assisted reproductive technology came the idea of surrogacy. There was a surge in interest in alternative reproductive techniques throughout the 1970s.

Traditional Surrogacy Practices: In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate mother and the child she bears are connected genetically. During this time, traditional surrogacy agreements frequently employed artificial implantation. Growing awareness of the moral and legal issues surrounding surrogacy emerged in the 1970s. Concerns were raised regarding the intended parents’ rights and obligations, surrogate mothers’ rights, and the child’s welfare.

Absence of Helped Reproductive Technologies: The emergence of gestational surrogacy was greatly aided by developments in reproductive medicine, including in vitro fertilization (IVF). In gestational surrogacy, where an IVF-created embryo is implanted into the surrogate’s uterus. With this technique, the kid might have genetic ties to the desired parents.

Cultural and ethical context: In the 1970s, no established legal or ethical standards for surrogacy existed. Parental rights and obligations needed to be clarified due to the lack of rules. Though not in the 1970s, it’s crucial to remember that the well-known “Baby M” case in the 1980s brought the moral and legal questions surrounding surrogacy to light.

The case was a traditional surrogacy agreement that resulted in a court dispute about the surrogate mother’s rights and custody.


IVF breakthrough: Although successful IVF embryo transfers have been documented before 1978, Louise Brown received the first baby delivered through IVF on July 25, 1978. Robert Edwards, a research physiologist from Cambridge, and consulting gynecologist Patrick Steptoe invented the method.

Influence on surrogacy discussion: The successful birth was the result of in vitro fertilization (IVF), this technique involves fertilizing an egg with sperm outside the body and then implanting the fertilized embryo into the uterus. The IVF birth proved that medical procedures might be effective in treating infertility.IVF acted as an inspiration for more study and progress in reproductive technologies, particularly surrogacy-related ones. The success of IVF made gestational surrogacy a more attractive choice. In gestational surrogacy, an IVF-created embryo is implanted into the surrogate’s uterus to provide genetic linkage between the intending parents and the offspring.

Limited Formalization of Surrogacy: The birth of Louise Brown attracted attention from all across the world and generated conversations on the moral, legal, and social aspects of assisted reproductive technology. The media attention around the success of IVF raised public awareness of reproductive treatments, including surrogacy. With the development of assisted reproductive technology came the idea of surrogacy.

Public awareness: There was a surge in interest in alternative reproductive techniques throughout the 1970s. In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate mother and the child she bears are connected genetically. During this time, traditional surrogacy agreements frequently employed artificial fertilization. The birth of Louise Brown had a significant social impact that changed opinions on surrogacy and infertility treatments. As assisted reproduction technologies gained traction, social views progressively changed.


The legal, moral, and cultural debates around surrogacy continued throughout the 1980s, with some significant advancements building on the foundations established in the decade before. An important court case from the 1980s significantly altered the conversation around surrogacy. The intended parents, William and Elizabeth Stern, and the surrogate mother, Mary Beth Whitehead, were engaged in the “Baby M” case.

“The Baby M” case: William Stern’s sperm was used for artificial surrogacy, and Mary Beth Whitehead became pregnant. The parenting rights issue led to a court fight that brought to light the difficulties and complications of conventional surrogacy agreements.

The legal aspects of surrogacy have come under more attention and discussion as a result of the “Baby M” case.

Growing Legal and Ethical Examination: Legal systems must define and govern parental rights, surrogacy agreements, and the general legal framework around assisted reproductive technology. The “Baby M” case received a lot of media coverage, which influenced people’s views and understanding about surrogacy.

Public Awareness and Cultural Shifts: The media was essential in influencing public opinion and generating discussions over the ethical aspects of surrogacy. Reproductive technologies, particularly those related to in vitro fertilization (IVF), continued to improve during the 1980s. These developments in technology have an impact on gestational surrogacy agreements as well as traditional surrogacy.

Legislation and Regulation: The legal difficulties facing surrogacy in the 1980s generated continuing debates that affected the development and modification of legislation about assisted reproduction. Certain countries started the development of greater rules to tackle the complicated issues involved with surrogacy.


Surrogacy was an unconventional and controversial idea in 1985, with few ethical and legal regulations in place. In this method, a woman carries a baby to term on behalf of another individual or couple who are usually not able to conceive.

Here are some important details of surrogacy’s past in 1985:

Baby M Case (1985-1988): The widely reported “Baby M” case in the United States was one of the most important points in the history of surrogacy at this time. The intended parents, William and Elizabeth Stern, had a child born into the surrogate mother, Mary Beth Whitehead. But Whitehead decided to keep his child when it was born, which caused a court dispute. Regarding the intended parents’ and surrogate mother’s rights, the case brings up important moral and legal issues.

Absence of a Legal Framework: Before 1985, surrogacy agreements were frequently made without specific legal protections. Due to the absence of regulations, there were legal issues and confusion over the parties’ parental rights. The Baby M case highlighted the necessity of surrogacy agreements having clear legal force.

Moral and Ethical Debates: During the mid-1980s, there were many moral and ethical discussions around surrogacy. Questions were raised by the opposition over the possible misuse of surrogate mothers, the sale of human the body, and the psychological impact on all those affected. These discussions became worse and surrogacy got more attention after the “Baby M” case.

Growing Popularity: Surrogacy was becoming more and more popular as a reproductive option for infertile couples, despite the difficulties surrounding it. Interest in surrogacy increased as a result of the r alternative reproductive options; this led to a rise in both traditional and gestational surrogacy agreements, where the surrogate utilizes her own egg or an egg from the intended mother or a donor.

International Variations: In 1985, surrogacy was viewed differently in different nations. While some countries had more liberal laws or explicitly banned surrogacy, others did not. The absence of a global agreement made surrogacy agreements more complicated, particularly when cross-border elements were involved.


It’s important to remember that although the laws around surrogacy have changed and now allow safe, efficient procedures involving gestational carriers, surrogacy remains illegal in every state in the nation. Before starting your journey, find out about your state’s surrogacy laws and consult with a surrogacy agency whether you’re thinking about using surrogacy to grow your family or if you want to help a family by having their child.

Continued Legal and Ethical Debates: The Baby M case continued to get public attention in 1986, and there continued to be significant legal and ethical discussions regarding surrogacy. Discussions about the necessity for additional legal requirements and moral standards regulating surrogacy agreements were sparked by the case.

Public Acceptance and Awareness: The overall public’s awareness of surrogacy was increasing. The idea of surrogacy—as well as the ethical issues it raised and its possible benefits for infertile couples—became more widely known as the media’s interest increased.

Medical Technology: In the middle of the 1980s, advances in medical technology resulted in the creation of in vitro fertilization (IVF) and other assisted reproductive technologies. These developments modified surrogacy procedures, particularly with the increasing popularity of gestational surrogacy—a type of surrogacy in which the surrogate has no genetic connection to the child.

Global Differences Continued: There were significant national variations in the surrogacy legal and ethical surroundings. While some countries banned the practice or remained doubtful, others accepted surrogacy and put rules in place. The surrogacy environment becomes more difficult due to this lack of global agreement.

Legal Developments: In the early 1990s, a few nations and areas began dealing with surrogacy through legal frameworks. Unfortunately, these laws were sometimes unclear and fuzzy, which resulted in continuous legal disputes and differences in the ways that different countries treated surrogacy.

Improvements in Assisted Reproductive Technologies: In vitro fertilization (IVF) techniques were one of the many ways that assisted reproductive technologies (ART) improved in the 1990s. These developments had a major impact on the surrogacy industry, especially when gestational surrogacy—using an intended mother’s or donor’s egg—was utilized.


The moral and legal consequences of surrogacy have been a source of debate in many nations. While some countries are favorable to surrogacy and put in place clear legal frameworks to govern the practice, others have placed limitations or complete restrictions on it because of concerns about surrogate neglect, child exploitation, and likely harm to the practice.


Surrogacy regulations have changed throughout time to accept the practice of helping new parents throughout the country start families. However, efforts to make surrogacy acceptable across the country are ongoing. What’s the impact of surrogacy on people and couples looking to start or build their families, as well as what are the educational activities that promote awareness of these problems? Education is essential for gaining additional laws approving it as a practice.

Technological Advances:
IVF has proven itself as the backbone of assisted reproduction, and ongoing improvements have increased the chances of becoming pregnant.

Genetic and Gestational Roles Are Separated
The common practice of gestational surrogacy, in which a surrogate carries a child who is not her genetic relative, has been made possible by ART. This technique allows for a more flexible and inclusive approach to surrogacy by using the intended parents’ or donors’ eggs and sperm to produce embryos through IVF.

More Options for Hopeful Parents.
Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) has made it easier to use donated sperm or eggs for surrogacy contracts. This has made surrogacy a more open choice for starting a family and allowed people or couples who suffer from infertility.


The history of surrogacy as it relates to the law is dynamic, extending its origins back thousands of years before rising in the late 20th century and making an important change to gestational surrogacy. The continuous development of legal frameworks in different locations shows the complex details and discussions of this reproductive technique. The legal environment around surrogacy continues to play a significant role in determining its accessibility and acceptance as society’s opinions change, opening up possibilities for a wide and dynamic future. It is clear from navigating the complicated web of surrogacy regulations that this area is still developing, with continuous discussions and rule modifications reflecting the complex relationships between technological developments and society’s views. Moving forward, we need to create a legal environment that accepts the variety of family-building techniques, guaranteeing that surrogacy is going to continue to be a respectable and regulated choice for people looking to start families in the modern age.
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