Wombs for rent: Commercial surrogacy big business in India

By AFP
Published: February 25, 2013
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Commercial surrogacy needs urgent regulation in India. DESIGN: FAIZAN DAWOOD

Commercial surrogacy needs urgent regulation in India. DESIGN: FAIZAN DAWOOD

NEW DELHI: Commercial surrogacy is a booming industry in India with legions of childless foreign couples looking for a low-cost, legally simple route to parenthood.

While the Indian government has been pushing the country as a medical tourism destination, the issue of wealthy foreigners paying poor Indians to have babies has raised ethical concerns in many Indian minds about “baby factories”.
The Confederation of Indian Industry, a leading business association, estimates the industry now generates more than $2 billion in revenues annually.
In a bid to silence critics, India recently issued rules barring foreign gay couples and singles from using surrogates, drawing sharp criticism from rights advocates and fertility clinics who called the move discriminatory, but the industry remains otherwise unregulated.
Clinic owners deny ill-treatment of mothers, saying it is in their interest to treat the women well in order for them to have healthy babies.
Thapa, 31, who has the jet-black hair and almond eyes of the Indians of the northeast, said she has no doubt what she did was right in allowing the Australian couple to use her womb to fulfil their dream of parenthood.
“I wanted to be a surrogate mother because I wanted to deposit money into an account for my children for their future. I also wanted to help parents who cannot have children,” Thapa said.
“I am proud to have given birth to a beautiful baby.
“The baby and parents are in my prayers forever. I feel like part of the family,” added the former cook, her eyes suddenly bright with tears.
She refused to say how much money she earned from the surrogacy but says she wants to start a second pregnancy in April. The clinic told AFP the mothers get $6,000 from the $28,000 total surrogacy procedure cost.
During her pregnancy, Thapa lived with her husband in accommodation in New Delhi rented by the Surrogacy Centre India clinic, with over 100 other surrogates.
Thapa’s own children in their hometown of Darjeeling never knew their mother was pregnant.
“I didn’t tell them so as not to disturb their studies,” she said.
Thapa declined to say how much she received from being a surrogate but said she wants to undertake another pregnancy in April.
In 2012, 291 babies were born in the clinic that opened in 2008. They now live in 15 different countries, including Canada, Australia, Japan, Norway and Brazil.
In New Delhi and across India, there are dozens of clinics like the Surrogacy Centre but many refuse to open their doors to the media.
According to Dr Shivani Sachdev Gour, director of the centre, the women recruited never have the desire to keep the baby they have carried for nine months.
“They have their own children, they’ve finished building their families,” she said, calling people who oppose surrogacy “ignorant.”
“They should come here to meet parents who dream of having a child. How can they deny them this right?”
Marcia, a 40-year-old Brazilian who lives in Luxembourg, is one such case.
After trying for three years, Marcia has just arrived with her husband in New Delhi to sign a contract with the clinic.
“When I look at the photographs of all these babies in the waiting room, I want to cry,” she told AFP, refusing to reveal her full name because she has not told her family about her step.
“I’d rather not meet the surrogate mother who is chosen — especially since it is not certain the pregnancy will be successful. We’ve already had so much disappointment.”
She said she will initially attempt to have her own embryos transferred into the womb of the surrogate mother but if that fails, she will opt for an “egg donation”.
“At first it was difficult to get used to the idea of another woman carrying my child, but if this is the only solution, then we will have a baby this way — it’s like a miracle,” Marcia said.
Gour said the clinic organises counselling sessions for the surrogate mothers to stress the importance of eating nourishing food, adding the majority of the women want to repeat the experience.
Mamta Sharma, 29, from one of India’s poorest states, Uttar Pradesh, has been a surrogate mother twice, most recently last year for an Australian couple.
“Everything has changed in my life with the money I got,” said the mother of four children who invested her earnings in a new house.

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Reader Comments (9)

  • sheikh
    Feb 25, 2013 - 12:56PM

    good for indian economy,i must say……there’s no use of being highly conservative….

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  • Ahmed
    Feb 25, 2013 - 3:20PM

    Selling children is a step-up from India’s previous indulgence i.e. female infanticide which has killed over 50 million girls.

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  • 1984
    Feb 25, 2013 - 9:22PM

    @Ahmed:
    If you had an IQ in double digits,you would have realised that they’re not SELLING children,but rather help others conceive at a price….

    Anyway,u want a place to vent ur anti-India diatribe…and you did it…Congrats for that…Now what you want?? A dance from Indians to commenorate your comment??

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  • Syed
    Feb 25, 2013 - 11:52PM

    I am not very knowledgeable on this topic. Do they somehow insert the sperms from the husband into these women and get the baby after 9 months? I don’t see anything wrong with it as long as that is the case.

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  • bangash
    Feb 25, 2013 - 11:58PM

    This whole business is rather unpleasant.

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  • Singh
    Feb 26, 2013 - 1:50AM

    @Syed: Just goggle it & you will find your answer. Any way they fertilize mother egg in lab then implant that egg into surrogate mother womb. No sex involve.
    Anyway Mullah of your country will issue Fatwa against it in near future if some one try this in Pakistan.

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  • Ali
    Feb 26, 2013 - 5:27AM

    @Singh

    Adoption is one thing. Trying to play god is another. It is against our beliefs and I for one, believe there is plenty wrong in this entire “good-deed”. So save your rants on what our Mullah’s do and don’t. And yes, this will never be “okay” to be practiced in Pakistan!

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  • Hafeez
    Feb 26, 2013 - 5:35AM

    It is the poverty that is forcing these women to sell babies (this is selling no matter what euphemism you coin). This should be banned and let these foreign/domestic affluent couples adopt babies from orphanages or aashrams. There should be some limit to commercialization, not everything should be up for sale.

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  • gp65
    Feb 26, 2013 - 10:10AM

    @Syed: “Do they somehow insert the sperms from the husband into these women and get the baby after 9 months? I don’t see anything wrong with it as long as that is the case”.

    They fertilize the egg outside the body of the woman and then implant the fertilisd egg in the womb of the surrogate mother. Like you , I do not see the immorality either as long as the parents and the surrogate and the would be parents are aware of facts and willing parties. One childless couple gets the joy of a child and another person gets much needed money to improve the life of her family.

    @Hafeez: “It is the poverty that is forcing these women to sell babies (this is selling no matter what euphemism you coin). “

    Since the fertilized egg belongs to the couple there is no selling of babies involved. The baby belongs to the couple genetically and the surrogate is simply allowing the baby to develop to term which it would not have a chance to do in the biological mother’s womb.

    @Ali: “Trying to play god is another. It is against our beliefs and I for one, believe there is plenty wrong in this entire “good-deed”. “

    Any medical intervention can be described as playing God whether it is innoculation against diseases like smallpox, measles and polio or heart surgery or cancer treatment. Why do you single this medical intervention out as being unethical?

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