Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy


Gestational surrogacy


Many newly emerging surrogacy markets imported the American-style free market model to surrogacy, but this model has led to exploitation and abuse of surrogates even though similar abuses were not observed in the United States. It is interesting that even in U.S. states where there is no legislation that directly regulates surrogacy, industry actors have developed customary terms and norms that provide a basic level of rights and protections to surrogates. However, industry norms do not similarly protect surrogates in India.

I argue that industry actors in the United States are incentivized to create such protective norms because they have legitimate concerns that courts might invalidate contracts using policing doctrines or that surrogates will bring malpractice suits against them for large damage awards. Doctors, lawyers, intended parents, and matching entities operate in the shadow of the common law in the United States. On the other hand, surrogates in India generally lack access to courts, judgments take long periods of time, and large tort awards are less common. Thus, the common law rules that would otherwise protect them do not serve to force industry actors to self-regulate.