How TV Gets Surrogacy “Wrong”

Jennifer "Jay" Palumbo

IVF mom of two and infertility advocate

While highlighting fertility issues and family building options are always welcome, it’s frustrating when television plotlines get surrogacy all wrong. And they do—a lot. Below are some examples and what the truth is.

You Can Be A Surrogate If You’ve Never Had Children

Whether it’s Phoebe from Friends, Dina from NBC’s Superstore, Heather in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, or Jenny on Will & Grace, each one of them has never been pregnant, nor do they have any children. There isn’t a reputable surrogacy agency that would have allowed any of these women to become gestational carriers. Working with women who have proven they can carry a pregnancy safely and successfully to term as well as given birth to a healthy child is a requirement in becoming a surrogate.

Traditional Surrogacy is Acceptable

Traditional surrogacy in which the surrogate uses her eggs and is biologically tied to the child. This can create legal (and emotional) nightmares. The overwhelming majority of clinics and agencies wouldn’t touch this with a ten-foot pole. If you’re familiar with the show Roseanne (now The Connors), you know how wrong they got many aspects of being a gestational carrier.

One of them was that the show had Becky as a traditional surrogate. There was even an inference that she “have sex” with the Intended Father to create the baby. The show Gilmore Girls also implies traditional surrogacy is possible. If you are a surrogate, you have no biological ties to the embryo and are, as the title says, “carrying” the child to term.

Surrogates Only Care About Money

The Gilmore Girls and Roseanne got this wrong as well. From Will & Grace, Jenny seems to be more financially secure, but there was one episode that showed her being a “cam girl” to make money. While gestational carriers are paid well for the incredible undertaking they are about to perform, too many television depictions make it seem like that’s the only motivation for surrogates.

Becky is cash strapped and desperate to make money, and Paris, on The Gilmore Girls, makes a joke calling potential surrogates “Bargain basement breeders. I’m not letting any of those bottle-service bimbos carry your baby. No, for you, I pull out the prime meat.” Aside from the fact that this is pretty insulting, there are financial requirements to becoming a surrogate, but many of the amazing women interested in being a gestational carrier have far more altruistic motivations. If a woman’s sole source of income would be surrogacy, she would most likely not qualify.

Agencies typically review if there’s a history of bankruptcy and look at the overall house income before proceeding any further.

Anyone Can Be A Surrogate by Raising Their Hand

If I listed all of the television shows and movies with this plotline, we’d be here all day. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen a scene where someone wants to have a baby, and the person they are talking to is like, “I’ll do it!” Then, bam! In the next scene, they are pregnant.

In the case of Roseanne (yes, I’m bringing this one up again as they got more wrong than they did right), Becky lies about her age (she’s 43 years old and says she’s in her thirties) and in NBC Superstore (a show I really do love), Dina, the assistant manager at Cloud9, casually offers to be a surrogate for her boss and his wife while they are working in the store. If you have a friend or relative interested in becoming a surrogate for you (or someone else), they need to go through a vetting process. Some of the standard qualifications are:

  • Be at least 21 years old and younger than 40
  • Have a healthy BMI, as determined by your doctor
  • Have carried at least one pregnancy successfully to term
  • No significant complications in your previous pregnancies
  • Be off anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication for 12 months
  • Have no new tattoos or piercings within 12 months of starting the process

In short, these are things not decided in a shopping aisle of a store!

If you are interested in becoming a gestational carrier or need surrogate help to expand your family, GoStork has many resources, blogs, and articles that can give you some insight into how it works. You can also, of course, speak to a surrogacy agency directly by instantly messaging them on GoStork.

No matter what your path to parenthood entails, know you can’t learn the best, most accurate steps from television!