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Winter 2016

Inquiry Magazine Archive

  • Spring 2016

    Spring 2016: Premium Blend

    Found in everything from space shuttles to dental fillings, composite materials have thoroughly infiltrated modern society. But their potential is still greatly untapped, offering researchers ample opportunity for discovery.

  • Fall 2015

    Fall 2015: Collision Course

    Within the particle showers created at the Large Hadron Collider, answers to some of the universe’s mysteries are waiting.

  • Spring 2015

    Spring 2015: Almost Human

    Model systems like pigeons can help illuminate our own evolutionary and genomic history.

  • Fall 2014

    Fall 2014: Small Wonder

    UT Arlington's tiny windmills are bringing renewable energy to a whole new scale.

  • Winter 2014

    Winter 2014: Overdue for an Overhaul

    The stability of our highways, pipelines, and even manholes is reaching a breaking point.

  • 2012

    2012: Mystery solved?

    Scientists believe they have discovered a subatomic particle that is crucial to understanding the universe.

  • 2011

    2011: Boosting brain power

    UT Arlington researchers unlock clues to the human body’s most mysterious and complex organ.

  • 2010

    2010: Powered by genetics

    UT Arlington researchers probe the hidden world of microbes in search of renewable energy sources.

  • 2009

    2009: Winning the battle against pain

    Wounded soldiers are benefiting from Robert Gatchel’s program that combines physical rehabilitation with treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

  • 2009

    2007: Sensing a solution

    Tiny sensors implanted in the body show promise in combating acid reflux disease, pain and other health problems.

  • 2006

    2006:Semiconductors: The next generation

    Nanotechnology researchers pursue hybrid silicon chips with life-saving potential.

  • 2005

    2005: Imaging is everything

    Biomedical engineers combat diseases with procedures that are painless to patients.

Oh Baby

Unpacking Surrogacy Myths

First book-length ethnographic study of gestational surrogacy corrects misconceptions, raises important questions 

Russian nesting doll

Gestational surrogacy is growing more common, but misconceptions persist

Thanks to improved medical techniques and technology, gestational surrogacy has become more common over the past several decades. But the practice still remains largely opaque to the general public.

"Many people have a difficult time understanding why someone would want to carry a baby for a stranger," says Heather Jacobson, associate professor of sociology. She recently published the first book-length ethnographic examination of gestational surrogacy in the United States, Labor of Love: Gestational Surrogacy and the Work of Making Babies (Rutgers University Press).

The surrogates in her study were between the ages of 25 and 45 at the time of the interviews. All were paid for their surrogacy, usually between $15,000 and $35,000, and most were married, financially stable, and Caucasian. All had children of their own, but contrary to popular belief, the majority of the surrogates were not stay-at-home mothers, but instead worked in the "caring professions"—for example, nursing, teaching, social services, or social work.

"Most surrogates I spoke with loved it. They saw it as something they were good at—a skill set—not work," Dr. Jacobson says. "I found that interesting because they engage in a tremendous amount of labor in helping to produce a child. They rearrange their lives and the lives of their families, and if the pregnancy goes well, it can be a year-long investment—if there are complications, it can be a many-year investment."

Surrogacy is not federally regulated, so while there is no official data on the amount of surrogate births in the United States, Jacobson's research puts the number at about 1,500 a year.

Elisabeth Cawthon, interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts, believes the study provides valuable insights about how reproductive technology is affecting Americans and changing the way 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 and its role in health and gender studies," she says. "There are a lot of misconceptions about infertility, reproductive technologies, and surrogacy that are reinforced in the media. This work will advance the larger conversation about these issues and help to correct that misinformation."

Dr. Jacobson discussed her book on the KERA show Think earlier this year. Listen to a podcast of the interview

More articles from this issue

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