Surrogacy is an arrangement in which a woman carries and delivers a child for another couple or person. This woman may be the child's genetic mother (called traditional surrogacy), or she may carry the pregnancy to delivery after having an embryo, to which she has no genetic relationship, transferred to her uterus (called gestational surrogacy). If the pregnant woman received compensation for carrying and delivering the child (besides medical and other reasonable expenses) the arrangement is called a commercial surrogacy, otherwise the arrangement is sometimes referred to as an altruistic surrogacy (Wikipedia).
Surrogacy is often seen as an alternative to adoption, although adoption may be part of the process. Surrogacy occurs when a woman who is not pregnant agrees to bear a child for another/others who will parent the child. What differentiates surrogacy from designated adoption - where pregnant and adopting parents connect with one another prior to the birth and make an adoption plan - is that the surrogate, the woman who will bear the child, is not pregnant at the time a surrogacy agreement is reached.
Two Types of Surrogacy
Traditional surrogacy: The surrogate provides the egg and the intended father provides the sperm.
Gestational surrogacy: The surrogate carries the pregnancy but genetic material (sperm and egg) are provided by donors - the intended parents if possible, others if not.
Steps to Parenthood by Surrogacy
Those interested in becoming parents through surrogacy locate a surrogate and, working with their lawyers and fertility specialists, make decisions about traditional or gestational surrogacy, determine compatibility, etc.
Most surrogacy arrangements do involve a written agreement; however, not all states have surrogacy laws, and not all states with laws recognize these agreements or treat them the same way if they are challenged.
In some states and under some circumstances, an adoption will follow the child's birth. In others, California for example, in the case of gestational surrogacy where the genetic material has been provided by the intended parents, they are presumed to be the child's legal parents at birth.
Considerations in Surrogacy
There is no legal standard for surrogacy from state to state, or from country to country. However, it is almost always certain that any dispute will be heard in the jurisdiction where birth occurs.
Moral and Ethical Issues
Some of the reasons all states haven't found it easy to pass surrogacy legislation are related to moral and ethical issues of embryo creation, fees that some see as baby-buying (or baby-selling), and others.
The Price Tag
Surrogacy isn't inexpensive. Except in the case where a sister or friend agrees to act as a surrogate without a fee, total costs and expenses may include the surrogate's fee and possible expenses, lawyers' fees, fertility specialists' fees, and fees connected with an adoption, if that is required. Cost estimates for traditional surrogacy range between $40,000 and $65,000 and for gestational surrogacy, between $75,000 and $100,000.
Change of Mind
As in traditional adoption, surrogates can have a change of mind and decide they do not want to relinquish the baby. Depending on state law, whether there's an agreement, and how it's interpreted by the court, the outcome isn't necessarily certain.
(information from The Adoption Foundation - http://adopting.adoption.com/child/surrogacy.html)