International surrogacy is often touted as a win-win situation. Western couples get a baby gestated for them at a low price, and the women in third world countries get more money than they would normally see in a lifetime.
But all we rich western countries have to do is look a tad bit closer and the whole facade falls apart. The women are exploited by signing contracts they cannot read, are kept under lock and key, forced to deliver by cesarean section, and then not paid the full amount they are promised. Some women die. Many of the contracting western couples simply do not care, since they are getting a baby at a discount.
But the exploitation does not stop there. In a shocking piece of investigative journalism, HBO’s documentary show VICE has uncovered even more disturbing details. To maximize results, these surrogates are often implanted with multiple embryos. If the couple only wants one child, any “extras” born are sold on the black market, and these couples have no idea their children are being sold to the highest bidder.
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New York Magazine’s “The Cut” has an interview with Gianna Toboni of VICE where she explains how easy it was to be offered one of these “extra” babies:
Right now, the surrogacy industry is anything goes, which is really scary. There was legislation proposed in India in 2010, it just hasn’t been passed. We didn’t see anyone receive poor medical service at the clinics we were able to visit. At the same time, there’s no limit to how many embryos can be implanted.
Doctors have been known to insert more than one or two embryos to increase the chances that the woman will get pregnant without losing time or money. The commissioning couple may only want one baby, so sometimes, when more than one baby is born, the couple isn’t told, even though it’s their genetic offspring. As you can see in the documentary, I was offered one of these babies from the black market.
Were you surprised by the black-market industry surrounding these “extra” babies?
I wasn’t surprised that it existed, but I was surprised by how easily we were able to find it. We did a lot of research and spoke to a number of experts before we went, and we’d heard rumors that there are extra babies and orphanages of white babies in India. We didn’t find any orphanages, but then, when a couple offered me a baby for sale over dinner, it was shocking.
In the following video, Toboni is offered an “extra” baby on the spot.
That is someone’s child, and they probably do not know their baby is being peddled over dinner to anyone who is willing to pay.
There are no words for how horrifying this is. Just one more way “reproductive rights” has turned into a total commodification of human life.