Booming Surrogacy Business in India: Is It All Good?

baby

The news that Shah Rukh Khan has hired a surrogate mother for his baby has brought in considerable media interest (and possibly violation of the law involving determination of the baby’s sex). What is probably under reported is the condition of the unregulated surrogate “market” in India and its practices. India is now a big global destination for hiring surrogate mothers and surrogate tourism seems to be ready to explode. With the ever rising trend of infertility across the globe, surrogacy could mean big business for local hospitals and the growing number of surrogate agencies in the country. The fact that surrogacy is illegal (or is practiced in a very restricted and controlled manner) in many western countries have turned into an ‘opportunity’ for India, where it is legal (and largely unregulated). But is it really a win-win situation where a poor surrogate mother gets rich quickly and an infertile couple gets blessed with their biologically related baby?

What is a surrogate?

There are two types of surrogate mothers:

Traditional Surrogates: In this, women are artificially inseminated with the father’s sperm. She then carries the baby and delivers it for the parents to raise. The surrogate mother is the baby’s biological mother.

Gestational Surrogates: In this, the biological mother’s eggs are harvested, fertilized with the sperm from the father (in vitro fertilization – IVF) and the embryo is placed into the uterus of a gestational surrogate. The gestational surrogate has no genetic ties to the child and is called the ‘birth mother’. This method is gaining popularity as the child has genetic ties to both the parents.

Issues in Surrogacy

In a report on the condition of surrogate mothers and their unborn child, Women and Child Development Ministry in Delhi and Mumbai said that the women are often exploited, especially because they are from poor backgrounds (why else would a woman want to bear a child for someone else and give it away after birth?) and are often illiterate.

Violations on surrogate mothers and their babies come in many forms – women are impregnated without their knowledge or consent, pregnancies are aborted (again without their knowledge or consent), they do not get to see or understand the contract they are undertaking and the babies are often deprived of breast milk right from their birth. Often, unwilling women are persuaded into surrogacy by the middlemen and their spouses for easy money.

Cross border surrogacy leads to many issues in the citizenship, nationality, motherhood, parentage and the rights of the children. In many places, such as Britain, where surrogacy in return for compensation is prohibited, the courts may not grant parental order to the intended parents, leaving the child an orphan forever.

When there are complications in the pregnancies or when it fails, the surrogates often don’t get paid anything in return for their ‘service’. They don’t have any insurance cover nor are they given adequate counseling. There are also cases where, after the birth, it was found that the parents did not have genetic relation to the child and was disowned by the intended parents. The child ended up an orphan.

There is also the ethical issue of who can be a surrogate. Some rich couples opt to hire surrogate mothers, even if they are very healthy and capable of bearing children, just so that they do not have to go through the effort of bearing their own babies.

Conclusion

It should be noted that the most of the parents that commission surrogate mothers are non-resident Indians (NRI) from western countries where surrogacy is illegal. There are also a number of other infertile couples from all over the world approaching India as a destination to hire surrogate mothers, for legal reasons. From a business perspective, it is all good but there is a question we should ask ourselves: should India, which has nearly 12 million orphaned children, encourage surrogacy business? Shouldn’t we encourage adoption of orphaned children rather than surrogacy?

References

  1. Campbell, Denis. (April 5, 2010). Couples who pay surrogate mothers could lose right to raise the child. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/apr/05/surrogacy-parents-ivf
  2. India’s surrogate mother business raises questions of global ethics (December 30, 2007). NY Daily News. Retrieved from http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/india-surrogate-mother-business-raises-questions-global-ethics-article-1.276982
  3. Not enough safeguards for surrogate mother, child, says study (July 17, 2013). The Hindu. Retrieved from http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/not-enough-safeguards-for-surrogate-mother-child-says-study/article4924014.ece?homepage=true
  4. Saxena, P., Mishra, A., and Malik1, S. (2012 Oct-Dec) Indian Journal of Community Medicine; 37(4): 211-213. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3531011/
  5. Surrogate children in India deprived of mother’s milk ( July 16, 2013). The Hindu. Retrieved from http://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/health/diet-and-nutrition/surrogate-children-in-india-deprived-of-mothers-milk/article4917720.ece?ref=relatedNews
  6. Using a Surrogate Mother: What You Need to Know. WebMD. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/infertility-and-reproduction/guide/using-surrogate-mother

  • Adalyn

    I have problems with fertility therefore I often visit clinics of reproductive medicine. Once I have met a woman in clinic who told me her own story about visit to Indian clinic. She said that she had wanted to use service of surrogate mother there. Accidentally she entered into a conversation with one of surrogate mothers and she told that they lived in awful conditions and doctors didn’t control their health state. After speaking with surrogate mother this woman did a great deal of thinking and decided to refuse point-blank of surrogacy procedure in India. She went than to Ukrainian clinic biotexcom and told about her experience there. Ukraine pleasantly surprises. The third world country, weak state, debilitated economy and collapsing infrastructure. But local clinics show rather good results in the sphere of reproductive medicine. Surrogate mothers are carefully checked in accordance with the international requirements. So the information about such situation in India is really terrifying.