Surrogacy is the practice in which a woman agrees to become pregnant with the intention of permanently surrendering the child born of that pregnancy to another person or couple, with the intent that the person or couple will parent the child.
The woman who bears the child is the ‘surrogate’ or ‘birth mother’.
The person or persons to whom the child is intended to be surrendered, are referred to as ‘commissioning’ or ‘intended’ parent(s)/person(s).
Depending on the law where the surrogacy arrangement takes place, commissioning person(s) may include:
- heterosexual women who do not wish to carry a child by choice, or who are unable to carry a child due to a range of factors (for example, infertility; hysterectomy; disease (such as cancer); absent or poorly functioning ovaries or uterus; recurrent pregnancy loss; repeated failures using other forms of assisted reproduction; age);
- single women or lesbian couples who can not or do not wish to use artificial insemination or other forms of assisted reproduction to become pregnant, or do not wish to carry a pregnancy;
- single or same-sex partnered men.
In addition to the surrogate mother and commissioning person(s), there may be numerous other people involved in (or affected by) such arrangements. For example, the surrogate mother’s partner, donors of ova and/or sperm and their partners, and any children already in existence related to the surrogate, the donor(s), the commissioning person(s), and/or their partners. There may also be the involvement of agents, intermediaries, lawyers, clinicians and other associated staff.
Surrogacy raises many complex ethical, social and legal issues. These issues are discussed on the page on ethical and legal issues. An overview of how the states and territories in Australia regulate surrogacy, as well as approaches taken around the world, is also found on that page. Links in the menu at the right of this page lead to sections that provide further details on laws in each of the states and territories of Australia, and beyond.
Immediately below, you will find some key terms concerning surrogacy defined (including defining ‘traditional’, ‘gestational’, ‘altruistic’ and ‘commercial’ surrogacy arrangements).