Rights of Surrogate Mothers

By Chad Hagy

Updated July 20, 2017

For couples who cannot have children, a surrogate mother is a viable and increasingly popular option. A surrogate mother is a woman who has agreed to become pregnant in order to deliver a child specifically for a couple with which she has a contract. Surrogate mothers can be the baby's genetic mother, in which case her own eggs are fertilized; or she may be a gestational carrier, and have an embryo implanted in her uterus where it can develop into a baby. Since surrogacy is relatively new, the rights of surrogate mothers have raised many discussions and debates.

Parental Rights

In most surrogate contracts, the woman who carries the baby relinquishes all parental rights to the infant once it is born. This means that the man who has provided the sperm for fertilization retains sole custody of the child and his wife can adopt. He is also listed as the child's father in the court orders obtained prior to the delivery. However, these consent forms are usually signed after the birth of the child, so the surrogate mother can change her mind.

In an embryo transfer situation, the pre-birth court papers list the couple as the child's biological parents. Their names are listed on the birth certificate and the surrogate mother has no rights to the child at all.

Medical Expenses

Under a surrogacy contract, the surrogate mother has the right to have all of her medical and other expenses covered as long as they relate to her pregnancy. Some non-related medical expenses are also covered because other conditions could affect the infant if they are not taken care of in a timely manner.


The surrogate mother has the right to choose professional counseling from the early stages of discussing surrogacy throughout the pregnancy period and beyond. The counseling can either involve her as an individual or her and the intended parents.

States Supporting Surrogacy

The rights of surrogate mothers only apply in states in which surrogacy is accepted as legal. There is no uniform federal laws regarding surrogacy and the states have varied laws. According to InfertilityAnswers.com, Alaska does not have any laws regarding surrogacy. In North Carolina, however, surrogacy contracts are acceptable but a judge still has final say about who should raise the child based on the child's best interests. Other states, such as Michigan, have strict laws forbidding surrogacy and even make these contracts criminal acts, as they work against the best interest of the child involved. According to the Human Rights Campaign website, there are six states as of 2009 that expressly permit surrogacy contracts, including Arkansas, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Washington. Even among those states, there are differences based on compensation, type of surrogacy and more.


Surrogate mothers have the right to privacy. This means when they sign up through an agency that matches surrogates with couples looking for a surrogate, their privacy is protected until all the parties meet together. Even then, the surrogate mothers have a right to their own privacy during the pregnancy as long as they are not doing anything that could harm the fetus.