Surrogacy and the City: Parker awaits delivery of twins

It sounds like the kind of story Sex and the City columnist Carrie Bradshaw would agonise over for hours in front of her Apple laptop as she made her way through a pack of Marlboro Lights.

A deeply in love couple have a son, and for the next six years try for another baby but nothing seems to work. Eventually they decide that their last resort will be to use a surrogate mother to provide them with the child of their dreams. But as Carrie – who always ended her columns with a question mark – might say: Isn't surrogacy the ultimate taboo?

Not if you are Sarah Jessica Parker, who played Carrie Bradshaw throughout the HBO hit series, and is having twins with a surrogate mother this summer. Yesterday, Parker, who is married to actor Matthew Broderick, confirmed the news through their publicist.

"Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick are happily anticipating the birth of their twin daughters later this summer with the generous help of a surrogate. The entire family is overjoyed," the publicist said.

A friend of the pair told Entertainment Weekly that they had been trying to add to their family since the birth of their son, James Wilkie, six years ago. "They had a lot of unsuccessful tries," the friend said. "They came to the conclusion that this was going to be the best alternative for expanding their family."

Barring any complications, the couple will become just one of hundreds of families in the US who rely on surrogacy to provide them with a child.

It is a process which has become increasingly popular among celebrities. Robert De Niro, Kelsey Grammer, Angela Bassett and Ricky Martin have all resorted to surrogacy in recent years.

To its critics, surrogacy is considered morally questionable because it challenges our most basic ideas about motherhood and the supposedly unbreakable bond between a mother and her child. But supporters say it offers a vital lifeline to couples who are desperate to have a child and have exhausted all other means.

According to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (Sart) – the only organisation in the US that tries to keep track of surrogate births – 256 babies were born through surrogate mothers in 2007, an increase of 30 per cent over four years. But 15 per cent of US clinics are not Sart members and keep their data secret, so the true extent is thought to be much higher, possibly as many as 1,000 births per year.

Despite stiff competition from India, which has looser surrogacy laws and cheaper medical bills, America remains the surrogacy capital of the world.

Over the years surrogacy has become a multi-million dollar industry with swanky clinics and agencies charging tens of thousands of dollars to couples looking for a womb to rent. The total cost of having a surrogate baby is usually quoted on clinic websites as being somewhere between $60,000 (£41,000) and $120,000.

Mothers are able to keep their prices high because the demand for them far outstrips supply. Surrogate mothers typically charge anything from $13,000 to $25,000 to carry another couple's baby and they are usually compensated for lost earnings, travel expenses and health insurance. But the issue remains deeply divisive with an unusual alliance of Christian evangelicals and secular feminists leading the criticism.

Melissa Brisman, who heads the largest surrogacy law firm on the US East Coast, told The Independent yesterday that the Parker-Brodericks will have almost certainly found a surrogate mother who lives outside of New York.

"In New York State, you're not allowed to pay surrogate mothers but there's nothing to stop you from finding a mother in somewhere like Ohio which has very relaxed surrogacy laws," she said. "We're now seeing a lot of celebrities using surrogates to have children which, in turn, is making the process more socially acceptable among ordinary Americans."

Technology has also led to higher success rates. Scientists can now inject a single sperm directly into an egg to virtually guarantee fertilisation. Previously they had to put thousands of sperm in a Petri dish and hope one of them would make it.

The technology might be cutting edge but the concept of surrogacy dates back thousands of years.

The Code of Hammurabi, an ancient Babylonian law, legalised surrogacy as early as 1760BC and the Old Testament frequently refers to Hebrew tribes using servants to give birth to heirs.

Some have gone so far as to suggest that Jesus's birth was a form of divine surrogacy.

Baby boom: Surrogacy laws around the world

Surrogacy is legal in the UK, but there are much stricter laws governing it here than in the US, where some states take a very relaxed approach and allow for large compensation gifts to be paid by the prospective parents.

In Britain a couple are only allowed to pay a surrogate mother "reasonable expenses", meaning very few people are willing to carry another couple's baby for nine months without pay.

UK law also does not recognise surrogacy as a binding agreement, meaning either party can pull out at any time with little legal consequence. It is also illegal to advertise for surrogates or intended parents.

In the US laws differ from state to state. After a messy custody case in the 1980s where a surrogate mother refused to give up her baby, 12 states – including New York, New Jersey and Michigan – brought in laws like those in the UK, forbidding payment to surrogate mothers and nullifying any contracts. Texas, Illinois, Utah and Florida currently have the most liberal surrogacy laws, while more than a dozen states including California allow it but heavily regulate paid surrogacy.

Over the past 30 years it is thought that approximately 22,000 babies have been born through surrogate mothers in the US alone.

India has recently got in on the act with the Gujarati town of Anand becoming the country's surrogacy capital. A rural Indian mother who agrees to give her baby away can often end up earning the equivalent of 10 years' wages, making surrogacy a booming, but ethically dubious and largely unmonitored, industry on the subcontinent.

A bill which would regulate the estimated £500m industry and weed out bogus practitioners is currently working its way through the Indian parliament. If it is passed, India will become the only country in the world to fully legalise commercial surrogacy.

Contracts between mothers and clients will be legally binding and hammered out long before the mother gives birth. The mother, who has to be between 21 and 45 years old, will relinquish all rights to the child as soon as the money is transferred.

All foreigners seeking infertility treatment in India will first have to register with their embassy, and the foreign couple will also have to nominate a person to whom the child should be entrusted in case either or both adoptive parents die.

Jerome Taylor

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Popes current and former won't be watching the football together
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Sport
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
business
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Sport
Germany's Andre Greipel crosses the finish line to win the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 194 kilometers (120.5 miles) with start in Arras and finish in Reims, France
tour de franceGerman champion achieves sixth Tour stage win in Reims
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face
books
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

    £60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

    Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

    £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

    AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

    £600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

    E-Commerce Developer

    £45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
    Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

    Hollywood targets Asian audiences

    The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
    Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

    Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

    Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
    Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

    Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

    Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
    10 best girls' summer dresses

    Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

    Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
    Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

    Westminster’s dark secret

    Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
    Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

    Naked censorship?

    The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests