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What are the Most Notable Instances of Surrogacy?

Although surrogacy may seem to be a more recent development in the way that individuals or couples can have children, this process actually dates back many years - and there are in fact a number of notable instances of surrogacy throughout world history. The very first surrogacy process was noted in the Bible's book of Genesis with the story of Abraham and his wife Sarah. As Sarah was infertile, she was fearful of being shamed by her family and friends for the inability to conceive. Therefore, she had her servant, Hagar, conceive for her so that Abraham could have children.

More Recent Cases of Surrogacy

Over the past few decades, surrogacy has become more common, as well as a more acceptable practice for having children. Most of these first known cases took place in the mid-1970s and early 1980s.

The first legal surrogacy agreement occurred in the case that involved a child who was only referred to as Baby M. In this case, William and Elizabeth Stern entered into a surrogacy agreement with the surrogate, Mary Beth Whitehead.

The surrogacy agreement stated that the surrogate would be inseminated with William Stern's sperm and would subsequently carry the baby to term until her birth. But, although the surrogate had originally stated that she would relinquish all rights to the child when born, upon Baby M's birth, Whitehead decided to keep the child, therefore bringing about legal action by the Stern's in order to be recognized as Baby M's legal parents.

After a bitter court battle, the New Jersey court ruled that the surrogacy contract was not valid, and it ruled in favor of the surrogate as being Baby M's legal mother. The case was then moved to the Family Court for the purpose of determining who would have legal custody of Baby M - Whitehead as her mother or William Stern as her father. Eventually, Stern was awarded legal custody, with Whitehead being given legal visitation rights.

Surrogacy also made headlines - both nationally and internationally - when Louise Joy Brown, the world's first "test tube" baby was born. In this case, the biological parents' sperm and egg were implanted in a laboratory and were later placed into the uterus of the surrogate. This procedure paved the way for what is now referred to as gestational surrogacy.

Surrogacy in the 21st Century

Surrogacy has become almost a common practice today, allowing individuals and couples who may not otherwise be able to have children expand their families. While surrogacy is more popular now, there are still some historic cases to be noted.

One such example took place in 2001, where the oldest surrogate mother at that particular time carried and subsequently gave birth to her own grandchild. Several years later, in 2005, another surrogate at the age of 58 carried and gave birth to her own twin grandchildren.

Although many inroads have been made with regard to medical and legal issues of surrogacy, there are still some factors to consider. One of the most notable is to ensure that the surrogate is emotionally ready to give up a child that she has carried throughout her pregnancy term.