Study finds gestational surrogacy often misunderstood, unevenly judged

For more than 30 years women have been working as surrogates for strangers who are unable to bear children. A University of Texas at Arlington researcher has found that although the majority of today’s surrogates are compensated for their services, many of the women are reluctant to think of themselves as workers and outsiders often misunderstand their vocation.

Heather Jacobson
Dr. Heather Jacobson

Dr. Heather Jacobson, associate professor of sociology, offers the first book-length ethnographic examination of gestational surrogacy in the U.S. in Labor of Love: Gestational Surrogacy and the Work of Making Babies (Rutgers University Press). Dr. Jacobson explores the complexities of surrogacy and conflicted attitudes that emerge when the act of bringing a child into the world becomes a paid occupation.

Dr. Jacobson’s book Labor of Love: Gestational Surrogacy and the Work of Making Babies

“Many people have a difficult time understanding why someone would want to carry a baby for a stranger,”

“I found most surrogates in my study loved being a surrogate. They were interested in helping others have a child because they enjoyed being pregnant. They saw it as something they were good at – a skill set.”

-Dr. Heather Jacobson

Dr. Elisabeth Cawthon, acting dean of the College of Liberal Arts, said Dr. Jacobson’s research provides valuable insights about reproductive technology affecting Americans and changing how we think about maternity, family and the labor involved in giving birth.

“Dr. Jacobson does a comprehensive job of dissecting the complex set of social attitudes underlying gestational surrogacy, its role in health and gender studies,”

“There are a lot of misconceptions about infertility, reproductive technologies and surrogacy that are reinforced in the media, popular television programs and movies; and, this work will help advance the larger conversation about these issues and help to correct misinformation.”

-Dr. Elisabeth Cawthon

Dr. Cawthon added that the research is representative of UTA’s commitment to advancing health and the human condition as outlined in UTA’s Strategic Plan 2020: Bold Solutions | Global Impact.

For more information about this story, please visit the UTA News Center. (

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