Iowa Supreme Court Rules That Surrogacy Contracts Are Enforceable

Posted by Alice Helle on Sunday, February 18, 2018

In a highly-anticipated ruling, the Iowa Supreme Court today ruled that gestational surrogacy contracts are enforceable in Iowa.  The case involved a couple who were unable to conceive a child together.  They entered an agreement with another couple, whereby the wife agreed to carry a child for the intended parents in exchange for compensation for her services as a gestational surrogate.  A twin pregnancy was achieved through in vitro fertilization (IVF).  The intended father was the genetic father of the babies and an anonymous egg donor was the genetic mother.  Neither the gestational surrogate nor her husband was genetically related to the babies.

Disagreements between the couples developed during the pregnancy.  The surrogate gave birth to twins prematurely without informing the intended parents.  By the time they learned of the birth, one of the babies had died and been cremated.  The intended parents sued to enforce the contract and to gain custody of the surviving child.  After ordering genetic testing, the district court ruled in favor of the intended parents, terminating the parental rights of the surrogate and her husband, and awarding custody to the genetic father.  The surrogate and her husband appealed, and the Iowa Supreme Court upheld the decision of the district court.  The child, who is now 18 months old, was with the intended parents during the course of the litigation and will now remain with them.

Gestational surrogacy is one of many areas in which the law has not kept pace with medical technology.  Iowa is among the majority of states that does not have a statute addressing this issue.  Until now, there was also no binding Iowa court precedent.

In ruling that such contracts are enforceable in Iowa, the Court stated:

A contrary holding invalidating surrogacy contracts would deprive infertile couples of the opportunity to raise their own biological children and would limit the personal autonomy of women willing to serve as surrogates to carry and deliver a baby to be raised by other loving parents.