‘Being’ Momma

Surrogacy is a good idea in theory as it allows a couple to have a biological child. In India, surrogacy has been legal since 2002 and has been made into a viable industry over time. In a “globalizing” world, why can’t one rent wombs? And why can’t we rent them from another country?

People in the West are turning to India to locate surrogate mothers. An important reason is the issue of expenses involved. Surrogacy costs about $12,000 in India, including all medical expenses and the surrogate’s fee. In the US, the same procedure can cost up to $70,000. Indian women too are wiling to carry babies as it pays them well. For some, it is easy money while for others it is a medium of combating poverty.

It is difficult to argue the rights and wrongs. Everything is not as simple as black and white. The debate about surrogacy involves some really critical questions like whether it is exploitative of the birth mothers or is in the interest of women at large. A pragmatic stand would be to say that in a country fraught with poverty, it offers a two course meal to the poor. But there are many problems involved with surrogacy in India, the biggest being that people are not well informed. For example, a surrogate’s health is not given due priority. Fertility doctors are allowed to implant up to six embryos in a donor’s womb — in other countries it is limited to three — which creates the risk of multiple pregnancies and can lead to severe complications, stillbirth or even the surrogate’s death. In many cases, the surrogacy option is used even when it is not necessary.Critics say the couples are exploiting poor women in India – a country with an alarmingly high maternal death rate – by hiring them at a low cost to undergo the hardship, pain and risks of labour.

The problem with surrogacy is that the mother naturally has a connection with the child and giving up the child is difficult and can be a traumatic experience. Is this another example of third-world exploitation? The system lends itself to criticism that foreign women unwilling or unable to pay high fees back home exploit poor Indian women at one tenth of the price. It is however difficult to argue against the advantages of surrogacy as the surrogate gets a fair amount of money in the process and the childless couple gets a biological child.

Mansi Joshi

[Image Source: http://www.tribuneindia.com/2004/20040229/spectrum/lead.jpg]

“It raises the factor of baby farms in developing countries,” said Dr John Lantos of the Centre for Practical Bioethics in Kansas City, Missouri.

“It comes down to questions of voluntariness and risk.”

Dr Patel’s surrogates are aware of the risks because they’ve watched others go through them. Many of the mothers know one another, or are even related. Three sisters have all borne strangers’ children, and their sister-in-law is pregnant with a second surrogate baby.

Nearly half the babies have been born to foreign couples, while the rest have gone to Indians.

Ritu Sodhi, a furniture importer from Los Angeles who was born in India, spent $US200,000 ($228,636) trying to get pregnant through in-vitro fertilisation, and was considering spending another $US80,000 to hire a surrogate mother in the US.

“We were so desperate,” she said. “It was emotionally and financially exhausting.”

Then, on the internet, Ms Sodhi found Dr Patel’s clinic.

After spending about $US20,000 – more than many couples because it took the surrogate mother several cycles to conceive – she and her husband are back home with their four-month-old baby, Neel. They plan to return to Anand for a second child.

“Even if it cost a million dollars, the joy that they had delivered to me is so much more than any money that I have given them,” she said. “They’re godsends to deliver something so special.”

Dr Patel’s centre is believed to be unique in offering a one-stop service. Other clinics may request that the couple bring in their own surrogate, often a family member or friend, and some place classified ads. But in Anand the couple just provides the egg and sperm and the clinic does

Source: The Sun-Herald