These Surrogate Sisters Have Turned Renting Their Wombs Into a Family Business

National   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   May 5, 2016   |   10:34AM   |   Washington, DC

A four-sister surrogacy business has some pro-lifers questioning the ethical implications of womb rentals and whether the surrogacy industry devalues life.

The Daily Mail reports the four Hernandez sisters earn their living as surrogate mothers for European couples who are unable to carry their own biological children. The sisters live in Tabasco, Mexico, an impoverished area, and their surrogacy contracts pay much more than they could make through other means, according to the report.

“As a young single mother from a poor background in Villahermosa, your job options are either waitress or prostitute,” Milagros, the oldest sister, said. “Surrogacy was an easy way to ensure a future for my own children.”

Milagros, a single mom with three biological children from three different fathers, earned about $16,000 for her first surrogacy child, and her sisters soon followed her lead. According to the report, the average surrogate makes about $14,000 per pregnancy, and they often receive extra compensation for living and health care expenses. The report calls the sisters’ surrogacies a “family business,” one that their grandmother urged them to begin.

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The Hernandez sisters said they do get attached to their surrogate children, even though they are not biologically their own. Here is more from the report:

The sisters even breastfeed the children for the first 10 days of their lives – making an already strong bond even more difficult to break

Paulina has already watched her sisters handing over their babies to their clients at the end of the pregnancy. Seven weeks into her first surrogacy, this young mother-of-two says she is ‘dreading the moment when she has to give away the child she has raised’.

But Milagros is pushing those thoughts to the back of her mind.

‘Following the full term, I’ll give birth in a Villahermosa clinic with the two fathers present,’ she said. ‘I’ll breast feed the babies for 10 days, after which I’ll hand them over to the clients. That’s always the most difficult part.’

Milagros spoke of the pain she suffered when her first clients, an infertile couple from Sinaloa in western Mexico, cut all ties between her and the baby boy she carried for nine months.

‘I still wake up in the middle of the night wondering where he is and what he might be doing,’ she told MailOnline. ‘I hope that my current clients will allow me to keep in touch once I’ve handed their baby over.’

‘You have to separate yourself emotionally from the pregnancy,’ adds Martha decisively.

Martha, another sister, said she spent a month mourning the loss of her first surrogate child, even waking up at night thinking she heard the baby crying. She said she coped by focusing on her three biological sons. Martha’s youngest currently lives with his grandparents, but because of the money she makes as a surrogate, she hopes to bring him home and raise him herself, according to the report.

Milagros also said she hopes to give her daughters a better future with the money she makes as a surrogate, but she also faced heartache when one surrogate couple pressured her to have an abortion.

“Milagros’ first surrogacy attempt was a secretive one three years ago,” according to the report. “She was promised £16,000 (about $23,000) for a successful delivery, but was then asked to abort when the clients got cold feet. For this, she was promised half the fee, but it never came. It still hurts her to talk about it …”

The state government of Tabasco passed new restrictions on surrogacy in January, but the industry remains widely under-regulated, leaving doors open for wide-spread abuses, according to the report.

LifeNews has reported a number of cases where surrogate mothers faced pressure to abort the unborn babies who they were carrying, often because the babies had disabilities. Earlier this year, a high profile case involved a California surrogate who was carrying triplets. She filed a lawsuit after the babies’ biological father began pressuring her to abort at least one of them, LifeNews reported. Though Cook successfully fought to save the babies’ lives from abortion, they were immediately taken away from her after their birth in February, because the biological father has full custody.

Many pro-lifers and ethicists have additional concerns with surrogacy, saying it often reduces women and unborn babies to commodities rather than human beings. In a column for LifeNews, Rebecca Taylor wrote about these ethical concerns after reading an interview with a British woman who called the poor Indian surrogate woman she hired a “receptacle”:

Biological colonialism is on the rise. Rich couples from western nations hiring poor Indian women to be surrogates. It seems like a win-win. The infertile couple gets the child they so desperately want on the cheap and the surrogates make more money than they can hope to make in such a short time. But look closer and you find a disturbing western attitude that the poor, dark, and different women are not people, but vessels in which to grow the next generation; natural resources to be exploited to continue on the western blood line.

… Surrogacy is by nature exploitive. Exploitive for the woman that carries the child, and exploitive for the child whose existence is owed to a “business transaction.” We are meant to be begotten out of an act of love for love, not paid for and gestated in a “receptacle” with no “biological connection.”