Rich People FedEx Embryos to Women in India for Cheap Surrogacy

International   |   Rebecca Taylor   |   Jun 13, 2012   |   11:22AM   |   Washington, DC

The Church has always rejected surrogacy and for very good reason. It objectifies both the woman whose womb has been rented and the child for whom a contract has been made for delivery.

Nowhere is this arrangement more exploitive than when rich westerners go to places like India and get a uterus on the cheap. Not only are the embryos sometimes shipped by FedEx overseas to be transferred to a woman the parents have never actually met, but the dangers to the surrogate are substantial. Because she is usually poor and “working” to help support her family by renting out her body, the contract she signs often places the health and well-being of the child above her own, something that would not happen with a Western surrogate.

The media often portray international surrogacy as a win-win for all involved and as empowering poor women. Those who have researched the practice know this is not the case. (I recommend Scott Carney’s Red Market:On the Trail of the World’s Organ Brokers, Bone Thieves, Blood Farmers, and Child Traffickers for a look into surrogacy and other body markets.) Finally someone is making sense regarding the need to protect poor women who are surrogates. Kishwar Desai writes in The Guardian:

India’s surrogate mothers are risking their lives. They urgently need protection. As rich westerners flock to India’s unregulated baby factories, impoverished surrogates suffer appalling conditions.

Premila Vaghela, a poor 30-year-old surrogate mother, died last month, while reportedly waiting for a routine examination at a hospital in Ahmedabad. The news was barely covered by the media – after all, she had completed the task she had been contracted for, and the eight-month-old foetus meant for an American “commissioning” parent survived….

Most mothers sign contracts agreeing that even if they are seriously injured during the later stages of pregnancy, or suffer any life-threatening illness, they will be “sustained with life-support equipment” to protect the foetus. Further, they usually agree to assume all medical, financial and psychological risks – releasing the genetic parents, their lawyers, the doctors and all other professionals from all liabilities.

Besides, in tragic cases like Premila’s, the hospital would have quickly paid out the money owed for a ‘successful’ birth, so the family would be unlikely to complain. Premila herself had gone in for the surrogacy to provide her own two children a better life. In a country where thousands of women die every year in normal childbirths, who would complain about the death of one surrogate?

Anindita Majumdar, who is researching surrogacy for her doctorate, says she is personally distressed by how easily the “sheer horror” of it all is being swept away by the money paid out to the surrogates. There are many grey areas – and she fears that even the draft legislation, when it is passed, will favour the medical community over the rights of the surrogate.

Already many malpractices, such as implantation of more than four embryos in the surrogate’s womb, as well as invasive “foetal reduction” frowned on the world over, are being followed. Often women undergo caesareans so the time of birth suits the commissioning parents….

I found that medical practitioners involved in it are rarely troubled about the fate of the women whose normal maternal cycles have been disrupted. As in Premila’s case, they seem to be only interested in delivering the end-product: a child.

Of course the rich Westerners rationalize all day long about how using these poor women to get the child they so desperately want is OK. This exchange between Megan, a woman who used an Indian surrogate and a donor egg to have a child of her choosing (I mean why not adopt? Seriously.) and Wesley J. Smith who argued that commercial surrogacy should be outlawed is a perfect example:



My son was born through surrogacy – commercial surrogacy in India to be exact. We had the help of an egg donor, a different woman to our surrogate, and I am forever grateful to both these amazing women for the giving us the joy of our son Toby. You are making an ill-informed assumption that children born through surrogacy are in any way custom made. There is nothing special or different about Toby being born through egg donation and surrogacy as if i had given birth to him myself with use of my own eggs, other than the fact he was loved so much by three women, who wanted to give him life.

Wesley J. Smith
Megan: Just because you had a baby in that way doesn’t mean it is morally right. J means reproduction has become commercial and consumerist. Have you ever thought that your desire created a terrible impact on the surrogate mother? It often does.

@Wesley J. Smith, Maybe not morally right for you, but my morals aren’t your morals and you can jump up and down all you like about morality, there is no right morality or wrong morality or one-size fits all morality. How exactly do you know about impact on surrogate mothers? How many have you spoken to?

Wesley J. Smith
So, nobody has a right to want a certain public policy because you got what you wanted? Sorry, not how the world works, nor should it. You should read the stories of the problems with these Indian women. Then be proud.