It was a typical tabloid story with a highly atypical ending. In 2012, the actress Sofia Vergara became engaged to an entrepreneur named Nick Loeb while celebrating her 40th birthday at a resort in Mexico. It later emerged that the couple had created several embryos in 2013 using her eggs and his sperm, to be used for in vitro fertilization—but they broke up shortly afterwards, and Vergara was no longer interested in bringing the frozen embryos to term. Then came the twist: Last year, Loeb sued his ex-fiance to prevent her from destroying the two remaining embryos.
A custody dispute over two microscopic groups of cells—“our girls,” as Loeb calls them—is unusual. But messy, complex situations involving stars’ fertility are increasingly common. If you don’t follow celebrity gossip, you might have missed just how often stories about reproductive technology are gracing the covers of tabloid magazines. In recent years, these publications have become a window into the future of reproduction.
As recently as a decade ago, magazines handled stories about surrogacy and in-vitro fertilization like the relative novelty they were. When the then-52-year-old former Good Morning America host Joan Lunden had twins via a surrogate in 2003—using her husband’s sperm and a donor’s egg, implanted into a third woman—it made the cover of People magazine, with a photo of Lunden wrapping her arms around her surrogate’s belly. At that point, Lunden’s path to motherhood was a much rarer one: In 2004, around 738 babies in America were born through gestational surrogacy, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine; in 2008, it was around 1,400. By 2012, as ABC has reported, the number was estimated at 1,989.