We tend to think of surrogate mothers as someone having a baby for a friend or one who really enjoys being pregnant and wants to give back in that way. The surrogate would be artificially inseminated by the father's sperm, carry the child, and then turn the child over to the couple. With assisted reproductive technology, we can now harvest an egg from one woman, fertilize it outside the womb, and then implant it into a surrogate womb for gestation. Certain states don't allow women to enter into surrogacy contracts, yet others, such as California, do. An unintended consequence of all this is that increasingly minority and immigrant women as well as women from developing countries are serving as "host wombs" for wealthy (often white) couples. Is that reproductive freedom or economic exploitation?
Rent-a-womb in India fuels surrogate motherhood debate
Date: Sunday, February 04, 2007
Author: Krittivas Mukherjee
MUMBAI (Reuters) - Jyoti Dave is pregnant, but when the 30-year-old gives birth in March the baby will not be taken home to bond with her other child, but will instead be handed over to an American couple unable to conceive. For her trouble, the Indian surrogate mother will be paid. She won't say how much, but she says it's money she desperately needs to feed her poor family after an industrial accident left the family's only breadwinner unable to work.
"My husband lost his limbs working in the factory," Dave told Reuters. "We could not manage even a meal a day. That is when I decided to rent out my womb." Surrogate motherhood is among the latest in a long list of roles being outsourced to India, where rent-a-womb services are far cheaper than in the West. "In the U.S. a childless couple would have to spend anything up to $50,000," Gautam Allahbadia, a fertility specialist who helped a Singaporean couple obtain a child through an Indian surrogate last year, told Reuters.
"In India, it's done for $10,000-$12,000." Fertility clinics usually charge $2,000-$3,000 for the procedure while a surrogate is paid anything between $3,000 and $6,000, a fortune in a country with an annual per capita income of around $500. But the practice is not without its critics in India with some calling it the "commoditisation of motherhood" and an exploitation of the poor by the rich.
"It's true I'm doing this for money, but is it also not true that a childless couple is benefiting?" said Rituja, a surrogate mother in Mumbai, who declined to give her full name. For the surrogates -- usually lower middleclass housewives -- money is the primary motivator.