During the years since, Sherrie has learned a great deal about the American surrogates who carry babies for infertile clients from around the world.
The clients are usually older, richer, better educated, often with graduate degrees, and more likely to come from large urban cities like New York, Los Angeles, Paris, and Tokyo. CSP’s clients are far better traveled than the surrogate mothers they hire. Intended parents (IPs) come from Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Bermuda, Canada, China, Columbia, Cyprus … Denmark, Egypt, England, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Indonesia … Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Papua New Guinea … New Zealand, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey and Venezuela.
The majority of intended parents are heterosexual couples. Some are infertile due to biological abnormalities. Others face fertility challenges wrought by hysterectomies, car accidents, paralysis, or other medical problems. More and more are gay male couples (lesbian couples rarely hire surrogates, given the inexpensive, thoroughly-screened sperm on the market and the statistical improbability of two female partners both being infertile). Increasingly, there are more single women and single men who are consciously and openly choosing to become solo parents. CSP originally worked only with couples, but in 2009 the company changed its guidelines to welcome single parents.
The surrogates are obviously all female, and they’re noticeably younger—the average age is about 28. The typical profile runs like this: married, Christian, middle class, with two to three biological children, working a part-time job, living in a small town or suburb rather than a big city, with a degree of college education but usually without a college degree. Women who shop at Wal-Mart and Costco, not Whole Foods and Neiman-Marcus.
In the United States, statistics show that surrogates fall into the average household income category of under $60,000. About 15 to 20 percent are military wives. Some are single women. Those who are married have husbands who support paid surrogacy; surrogacy is obviously not something you can hide, or withstand with a spouse who is not on board emotionally. They have health insurance. They get paid well—the surrogacy fee paid directly to surrogate mothers who work for CSP runs from $20,000 to $30,000 per pregnancy, tax-free. Experienced surrogates often command higher fees; as in any position, experience counts. Of the women who serve as surrogates for CSP, roughly 35 percent repeat the experience; in the U.S. there is no limit to the number of times a surrogate can carry for-profit babies.
CSP is not alone in its strict criterion for surrogates. Ethical surrogacy agencies and lawyers don’t accept two specific categories of potential surrogates. First, they reject women below the poverty level who may be at greater risk for health concerns and coercion, and who probably do not have medical insurance. Second, they reject women who don’t have children. Women who are already mothers have proven they are fertile, and have a more comprehensive grasp of what it will mean to surrender a baby to its legal parents.