People consider international commercial surrogacy for a variety of reasons. Some are unable to get pregnant or give birth due to infertility or other health issues. Single people, unmarried individuals and couples, same-sex couples, and transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-binary people may face discrimination from medical professionals, clinics, and laws that limit their ability to adopt children or access assisted reproductive technologies.

Access to Information

Intended parents need complete and reliable information to avoid deceptive practices or heartbreak while pursuing their hopes of forming a family. Unfortunately, because international commercial surrogacy is largely unregulated, intended parents are at risk of encountering intermediaries who are ready to exploit these hopes. They are also potentially at risk of unwittingly entering into surrogacy arrangements that directly contradict their values and interests and violate the health and human rights of surrogates, egg providers, and children. 

Working with Intermediaries

International commercial surrogacy functions with the involvement of intermediaries: agencies or brokers that match intended parents with surrogates; clinics where surrogates undergo procedures to lead to pregnancy; lawyers representing intended parents; and other parties. While many intermediaries genuinely want to help intended parents create a family, much of the information available to the public on international commercial surrogacy is provided by those with a financial stake in these arrangements. This can lead to the proliferation of misleading information designed to reassure intended parents and discourage questions and involvement in shaping a surrogacy arrangement or contract, even regarding practices they might find troubling. Denial of basic legal, ethical, or health information related to the surrogacy arrangement is a significant challenge many intended parents face.

For example, intended parents may not be given sufficient information about how laws in their country differ from laws in the country where the child will be born, with respect to parental rights, legal determinations of child welfare, the child’s citizenship, and the legality of surrogacy agreements. This lack of transparency can result in confusion, extensive administrative paperwork, unexpected expenses, and delays returning home.

In more extreme cases, clinics or agencies deliberately deceive or overcharge intended parents or subject them to fraud. This can take many forms such as:

    • Requiring large financial down-payments but never intending to facilitate a surrogacy arrangement.
    • Limiting the amount of contact with or information about surrogates and egg providers before, during, and after pregnancy.
    • Withholding information about the compensation and medical treatment surrogates and egg providers do or do not receive.
    • Offering expensive “deluxe” services, such as conducting embryo transfer with multiple surrogates at once to guarantee that a child will be born by a certain date, but not providing accurate information about what happens to fetuses, or children born, beyond what was stipulated in the arrangement.

While many surrogates report a desire for contact with intended parents, intermediaries usually restrict or discourage such contact. A relationship between intended parents and surrogates can be important for both parties. Contact with surrogates is also the primary — and sometimes only — way that intended parents can get information about the conditions the surrogate is experiencing and whether the agency and clinic are following the contractual agreements.

See Surrogacy360’s tool Principles and Standards for Engaging in International Commercial Surrogacy for recommendations to intended parents on choosing a surrogacy arrangement that safeguards all parties.