Twenty percent of the 1,000 babies born each year via surrogate in America are carried by military wives, or some say. There is no official data, though you’ll see this number over and over again in so many sources, as surrogacy is highly unregulated. In fact, there is no federal law governing it.
State laws vary on surrogacy and in New York for example, it is illegal and any parties to a surrogacy arrangement can be fined up to $10,000. For a lawyer or agency, if they are caught a second time it is a felony. Other states, such as New Mexico don’t have a law at all. Tennessee, on the other hand, has a statute that expressly authorizes the surrogate birth process.
This makes surrogacy a bit complicated for some hopeful would-be parents. Finding the ideal surrogate in the right location can be a challenge. This is where military spouses come in. For some, they are seen as the ideal candidate. According to multiple agencies, military spouses make up 15 to 20 percent of their surrogates.
Military spouses are considered the ideal surrogates for many reasons.
Military spouses are generally independent and self-sufficient from years of being part of the military lifestyle. Their spouses are away a lot and so they must learn to overcome and do things on their own. They are mentally able to handle situations in a strong responsible way. Giving up a baby you’ve carried for 40 weeks is hugely emotional and some feel that military wives are more emotionally equipped.
Having a sense of duty and a desire to help is something strongly felt within the military community. Many surrogates state that their desire to help another couple have a family is their driving factor. Many people have the assumption that women become surrogates for the money, but looking at surveys and community boards, it is clear that most of them say the No. 1 reason they choose to do this is because they truly want to help another family.
The money however is also a driving factor. Service members do not, in general, make a lot of money. Surrogates are compensated between $25,000 and $50,000, with an average closer to $35,000. This is a substantial amount of money, especially for lower ranked enlisted who don’t earn much.
Health insurance, Tricare, is one reason agencies particularly like military spouses. Tricare pays for all of the doctor appointments, pre-natal care and deliveries. That is a huge savings for potential parents, as purchasing health insurance for the surrogate could cost them up to an additional $25,000 on top of the average $100,000 cost of having a baby though a surrogate via an agency. There is huge controversy in using Tricare however.
Officially, Tricare does not cover surrogacy. Doctors aren’t likely to specifically ask if you are having the baby for yourself. If Tricare becomes aware of this however, they have the right to recoup the cost, which they have done. The Chief of Public Affairs though has said,
We have 9.5 million beneficiaries and our beneficiaries will have roughly 2,100 birthday every week. We have to be focused on making sure everybody gets their care. We can’t be a big police force.
People have very strong opinions of those that take advantage of this loophole. Some don’t see a problem with it at all. Tricare is a benefit they are entitled to as part of a military family. It is their body and their right to do with it as they please.
Others say they are abusing the system. They are using taxpayers’ money to have babies for other people, possibly for would-be parents in other countries. I’m not quite sure how I feel yet even after all this time researching surrogacy in the military.