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Surrogate Motherhood and the Politics of Reproduction$

Susan Markens

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780520252035

Published to California Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520252035.001.0001

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(p.184) (p.185) Appendix A A Note on Methods and Data

(p.184) (p.185) Appendix A A Note on Methods and Data

Surrogate Motherhood and the Politics of Reproduction
University of California Press

The research for this book involves a dual-site, multimethod comparison. A comparison of two states allows for an in-depth and nuanced look into the specific dynamics behind the legislative outcomes in each state. Employing comparative analysis allows for a more precise evaluation of the dynamic interplay between structure and agency as I seek to uncover the effect of political mobilization, as well as the limits imposed on such activity by institutional structures. The methodological design of comparative analysis permits findings in one case to be checked against another. Consequently, comparative research creates built-in tests of causal relationships.

California and New York make for a useful comparison, as my dependent variable of state response/legislative outcome is different.1 Furthermore, this comparison is highly controlled because New York and California share many similarities: (1) large populations; (2) politically diverse populations; (3) prominent surrogacy centers and brokers; (4) highly professionalized legislatures; (5) strong interest groups; and (5) highly publicized court cases involving both states.2 A comparison of New York and California is also of substantive interest because both these states are known for innovation with regard to their adoption of new programs.3

Most of my research involves the use of detailed content analysis of a wide assortment of primary materials. One data set consists of all newspaper (p.186) articles on surrogacy in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post between 1980 and 2002.4 Over 725 newspaper articles and editorials were read and coded: 213 from the Washington Post, over 286 from the New York Times, and over 226 from the Los Angeles Times.5 I used this data source to reflect national and local media coverage of surrogate parenting (see chapter 4 for more discussion of the media). While the print media are not the only, or primary, media source for public knowledge of events, these three papers have been documented to play an important agenda-setting role given their stature. Furthermore, newspapers (and particularly the three examined) do play an important role in shaping the views and behavior of public officials and other activists—the political actors on which this book focuses.6 This media data source is also used to chronicle the views and opinions of interested parties in the debates over surrogacy through analysis of the descriptive coverage of their activities and interviews with them.

I also made use of a large collection of documents produced by and for the California and New York state governments, including (1) letters of support and opposition, (2) transcripts from public hearings, (3) committee analyses, (4) legislative research reports, (5) transcripts from floor debates, and (6) bill files. These textual data served two purposes. One was informational; I was provided with specific dates, names, time lines, and the like that aided in my reconstruction of events. The other use was analytical; the bulk of my findings derive from a careful and detailed interpretation of these materials as historical texts. In particular, I use these source documents to analyze how specific political actors framed their position on surrogate motherhood—the focus of this book.

To supplement my primarily textual data, I also conducted semistructured interviews with prominent activists in the legislative debates over surrogacy. I first identified such key actors by locating the names of sponsors and witnesses who are listed on committee analyses and from newspaper accounts. After conducting these first interviews, I employed a snowball-like sampling, asking this first set of interviewees to identify other pivotal players in these debates. Informants were asked questions about their involvement in the legislative process, the history of the bill under question, key supporters and opponents, and the reasons that led them to a particular policy position. I conducted a total of eleven interviews, seven (p.187) in New York and four in California. These included five current or former legislators, three legislative staff members, two surrogacy program directors, and one legislative consultant.7 When permitted, interviews were tape-recorded and transcribed. Extensive notes were taken after each interview as well.


(1) . Although the California bill under study was vetoed, I contend that the fact that it passed through the legislature indicates comparability with regard to public policy intention. I am not the only one to make such a claim. In their brief to the California Supreme Court, the Calverts, of Johnson v. Calvert, also interpreted the legislature’s passage of the bill as an expression of California’s public policy. Although the court did not accept this argument, they did not reject it either (Johnson v. Calvert 1993).

(2) . Regarding large populations, see Gray (1996) and Rosenthal (1984); regarding politically diverse populations, see Bell (1984), Rosenthal (1984), and P. Smith (1984); regarding prominent surrogacy centers, see U.S. House of Representatives, Surrogacy Arrangements Act of 1987: Hearing before the Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism, and Hazardous Materials of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, October 25, 1988 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1988); regarding professionalized legislatures, see Bell (1984); regarding strong interest groups, see Bell (1984), Rosenthal (1984), and Smith (1984); regarding highly publicized court cases, see Tong (1995).

(3) . Gray (1973); Preston (1984); Walker (1969).

(4) . Articles were found through the use of Lexis-Nexis and the Los Angeles Times Web-based search engine. In both electronic search engines, articles were found using the search terms surrogacy, surrogate mother, and surrogate parenting.

(5) . The numbers given are for the total number of articles published in each paper’s regular edition. To correct for redundancy as well as to keep each sample comparable, I do not include in these totals articles that appeared in other editions (late vs. early, local vs. regional, etc.). These other articles, however, were examined for content.

(6) . See chapter 4, note 9, for further discussion of the papers chosen for analysis.

(7) . There were two key informants I was unable to interview, one in each state. Neither of them responded to my requests for an interview despite my repeated attempts to contact them. Although they might have provided valuable information, particularly since both opposed the policy approach taken in their respective states, I believe I still have a fairly accurate picture of what occurred. In general, the interviews I did conduct were disappointing. Just four years after most of the events in question, I often knew dates, names, and the like better than my informants. But from the almost dozen interviews I did learn to use their accounts with caution. First, since I was mostly interviewing politicians and their aides I was aware that I could only expect a limited degree of candor. Second, even with this small sample I received slightly different versions of events at times. Consequently, any use of interview data should be viewed as an account rather than a factual source per se.