Baby M Turns 30: The Law and Policy of Surrogate Motherhood

18 Pages Posted: 27 Aug 2018

See all articles by Eric A. Feldman

Eric A. Feldman

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School

Date Written: 2018


This article marks the 30th anniversary of the Supreme Court of New Jersey’s Baby M decision by offering a critical analysis of surrogacy policy in the United States. Despite fundamental changes in both science and society since the case was decided, state courts and legislatures remain bitterly divided on the legality of surrogacy. In arguing for a more uniform, permissive legal posture toward surrogacy, the article addresses five central debates in the surrogacy literature.

First, should the legal system accommodate those seeking conception through surrogacy, or should it prohibit such arrangements? Second, if surrogacy is permitted, what steps can be taken to minimize the potential exploitation of women who are willing to rent their wombs for income? Third, what criteria should govern the eligibility to serve as a surrogate mother and an intended parent? Fourth, what principle(s) should serve as the basis for determining the parentage of children born through surrogacy? Fifth, is regulatory uniformity in the surrogacy realm desirable? Is it achievable?

The article concludes that courts and legislatures should accept the validity of surrogacy contracts, determine parentage according to intent, and identify transparent criteria for the eligibility of both surrogates and intended parents.

Keywords: Family law, contract law, bioethics, assisted reproductive technology law & policy, surrogacy agreement, gestational surrogate, unequal power of contracting parties, prohibition, minimization of possible exploitation, eligibility, intended parenthood, parentage principles, uniform regulation

Suggested Citation

Feldman, Eric A., Baby M Turns 30: The Law and Policy of Surrogate Motherhood (2018). American Journal of Law and Medicine, Vol. 44, P. 7, 2018, U of Penn Law School, Public Law Research Paper No. 18-26, Available at SSRN:

Eric A. Feldman (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School ( email )

3501 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States
215-573-6400 (Phone)
215-573-2025 (Fax)

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