Comments on Berend’s interview: Money, Contract & Relationship

With the interview with sociologist Zsuzsa Berend of UCLA, we have touched the heart of some thematic nodes that are often at the center of numerous debates. In this new article, I briefly comment the aspects I found most interesting and useful for my research.
The most common type of surrogacy in the United States is gestational surrogacy – GS (Perkins KM, Boulet SL, Jamieson DJ, Kissin MD, 2016), that it has been practiced for three decades (Twine 2015). Is money the most relevant resource in the surrogacy experiences? To try to answer this common question, I would like to focus my attention on 3 different aspects: money, the contract and the relationship.

1. Money
Money is seen as something that gives more power to those who possess it and guarantees them to acquire a privileged position within the surrogacy pathway. In other words, who owns the money is seen as the one who has advantages over those who enter in the circuit and have a lower economic position than the intended parents. Quite on the contrary, Berend (2016) decade-long ethnographic research on US surrogates has revealed that surrogates (mostly married, white, middle-class women) discuss their choices, resources and voice their opinions about agencies, clinics, and practices. Her findings show how surrogates define choice and resources in a way that contradict the “taken-for-granted” notions about vulnerability and the role of money within the arrangement of surrogacy. Berend talking about money: “Obviously, it is a resource because people that don’t have the money can’t probably start the surrogacy process, but also people with money cannot even end up with a baby if the surrogate doesn’t put her resources, her generosity, her fertility and all the other skills that they are so proud of, into providing the baby for this couple”. Money clearly is not the only resource in these exchanges.

2. Contract
As Berend (Ibidem) has pointed out during the years, “the contract became more and more sophisticated”. How the surrogates see the contract? Following the answer of Berend “They don’t think of this as something that people force on them, they very much want to understand what contracts entail and act to have their own contract”. But one of the most fascinating points she found is that the surrogates saw the contract like the basis of a social relationship with the intended parents (IPs), like the test of a character and the compatibility.

3. Relationship
In this view, the contract plays an important role, not only for legal purposes, but because it became clue of the future relationship and communication. The Surrogates desire to transform the surrogacy journey into a mutual gift-giving relationship, during the contract phases, allows the ability for both parties to understand the type of relationship they will have and the type of people they will be dealing with.
I think these 3 aspects play an important role during the surrogacy pathway. This is why I’ve decide to focus my attention on them during the first part of my fieldwork.


Berend. Z. (2016). The Online World of Surrogacy, New York: Berghahn Books.

Twine, F. W., (2015), Outsourcing the Womb:Race, Class, and Gestational Surrogacy in a Global Market. Second Edition. New York and London: Routledge.

Perkins KM., Boulet SL., Jamieson DJ, Kissin DM., (2016), National Assisted Reproductive Technology Surveillance System (NASS) Group. Trends and Outcomes of gestational surrogacy in The United States, Fertility and Sterility: 106; 435-42 e 2.


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