What are the Pennsylvania laws on surrogacy and parental rights?

Pennsylvania Surrogacy Laws

Surrogacy is a complex legal area that involves various aspects of family law, contract law, and reproductive rights. In Pennsylvania, surrogacy laws have evolved to better define the parental rights and responsibilities of all parties involved in a surrogacy agreement. The legal framework surrounding surrogacy in Pennsylvania is primarily based on case law rather than specific statutes, making it essential for individuals considering surrogacy to understand the legal implications.

Gestational Surrogacy Agreements

In Pennsylvania, gestational surrogacy is when a surrogate mother carries a child to whom she has no genetic connection. This arrangement typically requires in vitro fertilization (IVF) to implant an embryo created from the intended parents' or donors' genetic material. While Pennsylvania does not have a statute explicitly addressing gestational surrogacy, the courts have upheld these agreements so long as they are carefully structured to protect the rights of all parties involved.

Traditional Surrogacy and Legal Challenges

Traditional surrogacy—where the surrogate is also the egg donor—has met with more legal complexities in Pennsylvania. Because the surrogate is genetically related to the child, courts may scrutinize these arrangements more closely. In some cases, traditional surrogates have asserted parental rights, leading to custody disputes. As such, intended parents may face more significant legal hurdles in traditional surrogacy scenarios.

Parental Rights and Surrogacy Contracts

A well-crafted surrogacy contract is crucial for defining parental rights before the child's birth. In Pennsylvania, these contracts typically include provisions for custody, parental rights, and the surrogate's compensation. However, it is important to note that surrogacy agreements cannot completely waive the surrogate's right to assert parental claims under Pennsylvania law; contracts must align with state legal standards to be considered enforceable.

Pre-Birth Orders and Establishing Parentage

Intended parents in Pennsylvania may seek a pre-birth order to establish legal parentage before the child's birth. These orders can streamline the process of securing parental rights and ensure that intended parents are recognized as the legal parents on the child's birth certificate.

Historical References

The landmark case of Baby M in New Jersey had reverberations in Pennsylvania and across the United States. The case highlighted potential issues with traditional surrogacy agreements when a surrogate mother sought to keep custody of the child. Although this case did not take place in Pennsylvania, it underscores the importance of clear legal guidelines and enforceable contracts in surrogacy arrangements.


Understanding Pennsylvania's approach to surrogacy and parental rights requires navigating a mix of court decisions and potential legislative changes. Individuals interested in pursuing surrogacy should consult with a legal professional specializing in reproductive law to ensure their rights are protected throughout the process.