7 Things Television Gets Wrong About Surrogacy

Surrogacy is ever-growing in its popularity as a family-building process. But, as surrogacy becomes more popular in people’s lives, it also becomes a more popular process to represent onscreen. However, the surrogacy we see on TV and in the movies is often far-removed from the reality of the surrogacy process.

Unfortunately, natural conception is still seen as the de facto way to add a child to one’s family — which means processes like surrogacy, IVF and adoption continue to be represented as unique and “exotic” ways to build a family. When done correctly, using surrogacy as a plot point can be a beautiful story; when done incorrectly (as it frequently is), it perpetuates negative stereotypes and incorrect information about this journey.

Here are just a few incorrect ideas about surrogacy that we’ve seen in pop culture. What are some you’d want to add?

  1. That Surrogates Can Get Pregnant with Their Own Children

Surrogacy is a medical process that is strictly regulated by medical professionals. Even those who pursue traditional surrogacy (in which a surrogate uses her eggs in the process) complete their fertilization and embryo transfer in a laboratory. During this process, a surrogate signs an agreement to refrain from sexual intercourse to avoid pregnancy. She also takes birth control pills up until the embryo transfer to control her cycle and further prevent pregnancy.

That level of detail isn’t explained on television. In the movie “Baby Mama,” we see a surrogate’s embryo transfer process fail. Instead of telling the intended mother, she attempts to feign pregnancy until she receives compensation (more on that below). She eventually discovers she is pregnant — but by her common-law husband instead. Because she did not follow medical protocol, she got pregnant during her fertility treatments ahead of her embryo transfer.

Know this: Surrogates are bound by contract to follow medical protocol exactly, eliminating the chance of an accidental pregnancy like this.

  1. That Anyone Can Be a Surrogate

Often, when hopeful parents on TV find out they cannot conceive, a helpful friend or family member offers to carry their baby for them. While this is a well-meaning and beautiful gesture, it also sends the wrong message about surrogates.

Surrogates must meet certain standards to pursue this process — most notable being that they have already given birth to one child. So, when Rory Gilmore jokes about becoming a surrogate for her friend’s agency in “Gilmore Girls,” it perpetuates harmful stereotypes, as she herself has never been pregnant or had a baby before.

In the recent revival of “Roseanne,” daughter Becky lies about her age and is still able to start the surrogacy process. She goes through no formal doctor’s visits or assessments. This is entirely inaccurate; Becky would have never made it past the first assessment to become a surrogate. Similarly, the surrogate in “Baby Mama” had never had a child before — which means she would have been ineligible to become a surrogate in reality.

  1. That Surrogates are “Ranked” from Best to Worst

In “Gilmore Girls,” Rory’s friend Paris runs a surrogacy agency — with a great degree of callousness and misinformation. As Rory’s mother and stepfather approach the agency about surrogacy, Paris brings out a different binder of women for them to choose from, saying, “Give me that. [Those are] Bargain basement breeders. I’m not letting any of those bottle-service bimbos carry your baby. No, for you, I pull out the prime meat.”

There are so many things wrong with this scene, especially Paris’s treatment of the surrogates with her agency. All women who are cleared by surrogacy agencies are medically approved to be surrogates and carry a child; there are no “better” or “worse” surrogates. Instead, the best match is based on the connection between the surrogate and the intended parents.

The total dehumanization of surrogates in this scene is a prime example of why people still hold reservations about the ethics of surrogacy today. In reality, surrogacy agencies should treat their surrogates with respect and care every step of the way — something American Surrogacy takes very seriously.

  1. That Traditional Surrogacy is Common

Traditional surrogacy is both rare and risky for intended parents and surrogates. Therefore, it tends to make for good TV — even when it’s not at all a good representation of the process.

In “Roseanne,” prospective surrogate Becky enters into traditional surrogacy (even though she would never be approved at the age of 41 to use her own eggs in the process). In “Gilmore Girls,” the director of the surrogacy agency makes comments about choosing the best surrogate because if they don’t, their child could wind up with a career at McDonald’s.

Both of these representations are truly incorrect when it comes to the reality of surrogacy. The vast majority of surrogates today are gestational, meaning the intended mother’s or a donor’s egg is used during the embryo transfer process. Therefore, a surrogate is not related to and does not pass on her genetics to the baby she carries. Surrogacy agencies today do not complete traditional surrogacies due to the risk and danger of entering into this process.

  1. That Surrogates Do It for the Money

In both “Roseanne” and “Baby Mama,” the surrogates make one thing clear: they are only in it for the money. Unfortunately, this perpetuates perhaps the most harmful stereotype about surrogacy there is.

Any woman who is only it in for the money will not be approved by a surrogacy agency. Surrogates cannot be on government aid at the time of their journey, and the funds they receive from their surrogacy are not enough to make them rich. In fact, a surrogate must be comfortable with the fact that the risks she is incurring (loss of reproductive ability and even life) are not in any way made up for by the compensation she is receiving.

A surrogate is not “selling” her body; she is being compensated for the services she willingly provides out of an altruistic desire to help another.

  1. That Surrogacy is Something Decided on a Whim

In “Gilmore Girls,” Luke and Lorelei briefly talk about adoption before setting up a meeting with a surrogacy agency. However, Luke is not involved in the talk about surrogacy at all beforehand. It’s critically important that each party is comfortable with the idea of surrogacy before moving forward — so the confusion and discomfort that Luke feels in the agency office doesn’t occur.

Surrogacy isn’t just something that intended parents decide to do on a whim. It’s a process that requires a great deal of financial, emotional and physical commitment before moving forward. Both parties must always be committed and plans must always be made for the requirements of the process before any actions are set into motion.

  1. That Surrogacy is a Scary, Dramatic Process

When surrogacy is a plot point in TV and the movies, it often revolves around something going terribly wrong, even when it all works out in the end. This is a vast misrepresentation of the surrogacy process. As long as you are working with accredited organizations and proper legal guidance, your surrogacy will proceed safely, legally and efficiently.

To learn more about what surrogacy is really like, we encourage you to contact our surrogacy specialists at 1-800-875-BABY(2229). They can answer all of your questions about surrogacy, describe the reality of the surrogacy process and, when you’re ready, help you get started. Surrogacy is a safe and beautiful process, and American Surrogacy stands ready to help you through your journey from start to finish.

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