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January 29, 2015

Surrogate Motherhood Throughout the 20th Century

In reality, surrogate motherhood goes back to the dawn of recorded history. Although ancient forms of surrogate motherhood were rarely documented, the one of the first examples comes to us from the bible. In one of the stories about Abraham, it is written that his wife Sarah experienced infertility. She asked her handmaiden, Hagar to carry a child for her and Abraham. Modern surrogacy, as it’s known today, however, didn’t really catch fire till the late 1970s. Here are just a few notable snippets from history, as we look back to the biggest moments in surrogacy.

1. 1978: The First Test Tube Baby

Louise Joy Brown was born after being conceived by in-vitro fertilization, which was performed by Dr. Patrick Steptoe and Robert Edwards—both of which were considered pioneers in their field. Prior to that, little Louise’s parents had been trying to have a baby for nine years before trying this new and experimental medical procedure. Later, Robert Edwards would go one to win the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his contribution.

2. 1980: The First Paid Traditional Surrogacy Arrangement

In this year, a 37-year old woman, whose pseudonym was Elizabeth Kane, made history as a the first documented traditional surrogate to receive compensation for birthing a son. She received $10,000 for the delivery.

3. 1983: The First Successful Pregnancy Through Egg Donation

Though not a surrogacy pregnancy, this remarkable procedure allowed a menopausal women to give birth by using donated eggs. Without this advancement, gestational surrogacy might not have been possible.

4. 1985: The First Gestational Surrogacy

This event was monumental moment in the history of surrogacy, as it was the first time a surrogate carried the biological child of a woman who had a hysterectomy, but still retained her ovaries.

5. 1988: The Baby “M” Case

This New Jersey Supreme Court case became the first American court case to rule on the validity of surrogacy agreements, when an infant’s parentage was called into question. To sum up the case, a married couple entered into a traditional surrogacy agreement, when Mark Beth Whitehead was inseminated by William Stern. Instead of carrying the baby to term and then handing it over to the intended parents, Whitehead delivered the child she named Melissa, changed her mind about the agreement and decided to keep the baby. The Sterns then sued for parental rights, but the courts ruled the contract invalid, making Whitehead the legal mother. The ruling acts as precedent in New Jersey till this day. Later, however, it was ordered that Melissa (known as Baby M) would be better off with her natural father and his wife, because the two could provide a more secure home.

6. 2001: The Oldest Recorded Surrogate Mother to Date

Viv, aged 54, became the world’s oldest surrogate, actually giving birth to her own grandchild. Since then the record has been broken.

7. 2005 Surrogate Gives Birth to Quintuplets

On April 26, 2005, Teresa Anderson delivered five boys as a gestational surrogate. Anderson was 54 years old at the time she agreed to the surrogacy arrangement, for a couple she had met online: Luisa Gonzalez and her husband, who had been battling infertility for over 10 years. Generously, when she found out that she was carrying quintuplets, she waived her $15,000 carrier fee. She felt that the intended parents could better use that money in raising their 5 children.

8. The Reigning Oldest Surrogate

In Japan, a woman aged 61 became the oldest surrogate mother ever, giving birth to her own grandchild. The woman’s daughter had no uterus, but doctors were still capable of harvesting her eggs. Though surrogacy is usually looked down on in Japan, she still made headlines because of the unusual circumstances.

From barely being mentioned to media sensations, surrogate motherhood has come a long way over the last century. Today, family member act as surrogate carriers, while celebrities and surrogacy agencies have brought the practice into the mainstream. Who knows where surrogacy will be in the next 20, 50 or 100 years.