The Evolution of Surrogacy: A Timeline

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There are many beliefs surrounding the dawn of time and the first human beings to exist. Some believe that Adam and Eve were created by God on His sixth day of creation to begin human life on Earth. Others believe in a theory about a Big Bang, followed by a slow evolution from single-celled organisms to complex life. There are infinite theories to explain our beginnings, in which none of us were there to experience for ourselves. Whatever you believe, one thing can be agreed upon universally: life is a miracle.

Just as we can learn about early life from old artifacts and writings from ancient civilizations, we can also learn about early problems that we as a society still face today. One of these problems is infertility. Because so many people are called to create a family, humanity has long been trying to overcome problems with conception. Surrogacy has been providing a solution for generations.



The Bible documents the first account of surrogacy is documented in. In the Book of Genesis, Abraham’s wife, Sarah, is unable to conceive. She asks her servant Hagar to carry their child for them, which she does. The story of Jacob and Rachel parallels this story, where Rachel asks her servant to carry her and Jacob’s child to continue their family line.




The first recorded case of a successful artificial insemination was documented by John Hunter, an English surgeon who struggled with his own congenital condition of the reproductive system. Hunter, working with a draper and the draper’s wife, conducted this process that resulted in a successful conception. Hunter wrote about it in medical literature that was published in 1790.




Because John Hunter decided to pursue other areas of medical study after his success with artificial insemination, it was not until the 1850’s that another medical professional worked to progress artificial insemination and surrogacy practices. J Marion Sims recorded a total of 55 artificial inseminations during the 1850’s, all of which were an attempt to override a common medical issue in women at the time that was causing failed pregnancies. Out of these 55 cases, there was only 1 successful pregnancy. It is unknown whether Sim’s practices were ethical, but it is known that he was the only medic offering a solution to this widespread female health complication at this time.




The first baby born via IVF (in-vitro fertilization: the process of retrieving an egg and sperm and combining them in a laboratory before placing them into a womb for growth) is born. Her name was Louise Brown.




Though by this time there were other cases of surrogacy occurring in the United States, Elizabeth Kane became the first legally financially-compensated surrogate under US law in 1980.


In 1985, the first successful gestational surrogacy procedure took place. The case involved an intended mother whose fallopian tubes were damaged, but there was no issue with her ability to carry a child in her womb. The baby born was a product of this intended mother’s egg and the intended father’s sperm, making the child biologically related to both intended parents with no biological link to the surrogate. Before this, traditional surrogacy only allowed for the intended father to be biologically related to the child. (The surrogate’s egg was used, rather than the intended mother’s.)


The 1986 legal battle of “Baby M” paved the way for the development of stricter protections surrounding surrogacy. Another case in 1990 provided a similar outcome. These cases laid the groundwork for the legalities used in modern surrogacy partnerships, protecting everyone involved to help provide a rewarding experience for all.

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1990’s – Today


Virginia and New Hampshire become the first US states to enact written laws about surrogacy. Many states followed suit, but not all. To this day, there are some states in the US who are silent about surrogacy (meaning there are no official state laws regarding surrogacy), and some where it is illegal. In 2024, gestational surrogacy is only strictly prohibited in Louisiana, Michigan, and Nebraska. However, over 750 babies are born every year from successful gestational surrogacy partnerships. 


Laws surrounding surrogacy continue to grow and change. For example, in 2020 the Nevada Surrogacy Insurance Bill was passed, which now prohibits the denial of healthcare insurance on the basis that the person is a surrogate.


Before 1985, all cases of surrogacy were cases of traditional surrogacy, meaning an intended father inseminated a surrogate, and the surrogate carried the baby to delivery. In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate is the biological mother. From 1985 to today, we have had the ability to utilize the intended mother’s egg in fertilization – this makes both intended mother and father the biological parents of the child. The gestational carrier has no genetic link to the baby.


In addition to protections for surrogates, states where surrogacy is legal have laws protecting intended parents, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, reproductive health complications, reluctance to carry or deliver a child, or almost any other scenario that may motivate a couple to pursue surrogacy.


In today’s world, surrogacy is much more mainstream than it has been in the past. Many celebrities and content creators have included surrogacy as part of their journey, and there are detailed accounts of surrogates and parents whose lives have been changed for the better. To take the complications out of the spotlight and make more room for the excitement of the miracle of life, surrogacy agencies like Los Angeles Surrogacy provide advice, support, and step-by-step guidance so no small detail is left in question. The partnership between surrogate, intended parents, and agency provides a base for a seamless journey to a common goal: the miracles of parenthood and of life.


If you are interested in embarking on the journey of parenthood via surrogacy, please fill out this form and we will get back to you as soon as possible. Thank you.


Sources: National Library of Medicine, Parker Herring Law Group