Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The market for human wombs

While the unregulated market for human eggs in Cyprus may be one of the busiest in the world, the more labor intensive market for surrogate wombs seems to be bustling, equally unregulated, in India. But regulation is being considered. Here's an article from Slate: India, the Rent-a-Womb Capital of the World

"You can outsource just about any work to India these days, including making babies. Reproductive tourism in India is now a half-a-billion-dollar-a-year industry, with surrogacy services offered in 350 clinics across the country since it was legalized in 2002. The primary appeal of India is that it is cheap, hardly regulated, and relatively safe. Surrogacy can cost up to $100,000 in the United States, while many Indian clinics charge $22,000 or less. Very few questions are asked. Same-sex couples, single parents and even busy women who just don't have time to give birth are welcomed by doctors. As a bonus, many Indians speak English and Indian surrogate mothers are less likely to use illegal drugs. Plus medical standards in private hospitals are very high (not all good Indian doctors left in the brain drain).

"Some describe this as a win-win situation. The doctors get clients, the childless get children and the surrogates get much-needed money. But some media horror stories have challenged this happy vision. ...
"The most shocking stories, however, concern the surrogate mothers. The surrogates, many of whom are cooped up in "surrogacy homes" away from their families for the duration of the pregnancy, are often in dire financial straits. One woman told a journalist that with a $4,000 debt and an alcoholic husband, she had first considered selling a kidney to get herself out of debt, but decided that the $ 7,000 surrogacy fee was the better option. In another disturbing case, an upper-class Indian woman hired a surrogate to carry her child and invited her to live in her home during the pregnancy. The client accused the surrogate mother of stealing and not only kicked her out of the house but coolly informed her that she didn't want her services anymore and that she should terminate the pregnancy. Surrogates get paid only on delivery of the baby, so this kind of situation is economically devastating for a surrogate. It can also severely compromise the ethical and religious beliefs of surrogates who may not wish to undergo an abortion.

"Last year, the government began looking to regulate the industry. An Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill is up for discussion in the next parliamentary session, causing renewed interest in the ethical issues. "Surrogacy—Exploiting the Poor?" was one theme of a very popular, Oprah Winfrey-esque talk show on India's NDTV channel. One academic, professor Mohan Rao, who teaches at the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University, said that the country was witnessing "reproductive trafficking," referring to the fact that most cash-strapped surrogate mothers are from rural India and travel to metropolitan centers to offer their services as a last-ditch effort to get money. This view is fiercely challenged by those who see surrogacy as a means to economic empowerment of women and as a decision women should be free to make for themselves. "

The article also links to this Stanford webpage on Surrogate Motherhood in India.

1 comment:

dWj said...

Did you see that a daughter of Patri Friedman (thus a granddaughter of David Friedman and a great granddaughter of Milton Friedman) was born the other day to an Indian surrogate?