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Archive for Monday, December 31, 2007

Giving birth becomes latest job outsourced to India

December 31, 2007

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Surrogate mothers are seen at Kaival Hospital in Anand, India. The small clinic at Kaival Hospital matches infertile couples with local women; more than 40 babies have already been born and about 50 pregnancies are now in progress.

Surrogate mothers are seen at Kaival Hospital in Anand, India. The small clinic at Kaival Hospital matches infertile couples with local women; more than 40 babies have already been born and about 50 pregnancies are now in progress.

— Every night in this quiet western Indian city, 15 pregnant women prepare for sleep in the spacious house they share, ascending the stairs in a procession of ballooned bellies, to bedrooms that become a landscape of soft hills.

A team of maids, cooks and doctors looks after the women, whose pregnancies would be unusual anywhere else but are common here. The young mothers of Anand, a place famous for its milk, are pregnant with the children of infertile couples from around the world.

The small clinic at Kaival Hospital matches infertile couples with local women, cares for the women during pregnancy and delivery, and counsels them afterward. Anand's surrogate mothers, pioneers in the growing field of outsourced pregnancies, have given birth to roughly 40 babies.

More than 50 women in this city are now pregnant with the children of couples from the United States, Taiwan, Britain and beyond. The women earn more than many would make in 15 years.

But the program raises a host of uncomfortable questions that touch on morals and modern science, exploitation and globalization, and that most natural of desires: to have a family.

Dr. Nayna Patel, the woman behind Anand's baby boom, defends her work as meaningful for everyone involved.

"There is this one woman who desperately needs a baby and cannot have her own child without the help of a surrogate. And at the other end there is this woman who badly wants to help her (own) family," Patel said.

"If this female wants to help the other one ... why not allow that? ... It's not for any bad cause. They're helping one another to have a new life in this world."

'Wombs for rent'

Experts say commercial surrogacy - or what has been called "wombs for rent" - is growing in India. While no reliable numbers track such pregnancies nationwide, doctors work with surrogates in virtually every major city. The women are impregnated in-vitro with the egg and sperm of couples unable to conceive on their own.

Commercial surrogacy has been legal in India since 2002, as it is in many other countries, including the United States. But India is the leader in making it a viable industry rather than a rare fertility treatment. Experts say it could take off for the same reasons outsourcing in other industries has been successful: a wide labor pool working for relatively low rates.

Critics say the couples are exploiting poor women in India - a country with an alarmingly high maternal death rate - by hiring them at a cut-rate cost to undergo the hardship, pain and risks of labor.

"It raises the factor of baby farms in developing countries," said Dr. John Lantos of the Center for Practical Bioethics in Kansas City, Mo. "It comes down to questions of voluntariness and risk."

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.

Growing demand

Health experts expect to see more Indian commercial surrogacy programs in coming years. Dr. Indira Hinduja, a prominent fertility specialist who was behind India's first test-tube baby two decades ago, receives several surrogacy inquiries a month from couples overseas.

"People are accepting it," said Hinduja. "Earlier they used to be ashamed but now they are becoming more broadminded."

But if commercial surrogacy keeps growing, some fear it could change from a medical necessity for infertile women to a convenience for the rich.

"You can picture the wealthy couples of the West deciding that pregnancy is just not worth the trouble anymore and the whole industry will be farmed out," said Lantos.

Comments

Confrontation 6 years, 12 months ago

This is possibly a safer and more guaranteed method than getting a surrogate here in the U.S. These women in India really need the money, will only get paid after the birth, won't cause you a lot of drama, and aren't as likely to be crackw**res.

monkeyspunk 6 years, 12 months ago

Are these gestational surrogates (unrelated to child) or traditional surrogates (genetic mother of child)? Couldn't find the information in the article.

"But if commercial surrogacy keeps growing, some fear it could change from a medical necessity for infertile women to a convenience for the rich.

"You can picture the wealthy couples of the West deciding that pregnancy is just not worth the trouble anymore and the whole industry will be farmed out," said Lantos."

I smell a Sci-Fi novel!

sdinges 6 years, 12 months ago

Now oldgranny, it seems a bit unfair to insinuate that infertility only occurs in older or career-driven women. Women are infertile for a myriad of reasons.

Also, you have a whole generation of women who were told they could "have it all," only to discover that having it all turned out to be harder than it was made out to be. They were told they could, and even should wait until they "found themselves" or "had a career established" only to discover too late that their uterus disagreed.

Bitterfalls 6 years, 12 months ago

The real questions is how do impotent white-supremacists feel about this? The birth mother is non-white, even if the child is considered genetically white.

And what about people from Arkansas or Missouri? When a brother and sister send their eggs and sperm to be incubated, is the child still their nephew or niece?

I'm confused.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 6 years, 12 months ago

Who cares what white-supremacists think? It would be nice if they would adopt children.

sdinges 6 years, 12 months ago

I watched a report about this on Oprah recently. Getting a surrogate in the "first world" is extremely expensive compared to India, and so it's actually not so much the rich who are hiring Indian surrogates, but less wealthy individuals who could not otherwise afford it.

Despite the fact that it's considerably cheaper to hire an Indian surrogate, the amount of money the surrogate receives is life changing for them and their families.

The criticism in the article that India has a high maternal death rate seems unfair, since the facilities are for-profit, well-funded medical centers. The women generally live at the facility for the duration of their pregnancy so that doctors can monitor them closely and ensure appropriate prenatal health and care. This is a business with a vested interest in delivering a healthy baby and providing appropriate medical care to its surrogates. It doesn't exactly look good to potential parents if surrogates are dying left and right.

Christine Pennewell Davis 6 years, 12 months ago

right, wrong, good ,bad and the fight goes back and forth, at least this is done legal and in the open unlike blackmarket babies or yuck organs.

oldgranny 6 years, 12 months ago

This is the most ridiculous thing...no wonder the rest of the world finds us lazy spoiled and selfish! Some of us can't even manage to bear our own children anymore. Either we wait to long to "find ourselves" or "to get our career established" or what ever. Then when its to late we have to get some else to do the job for us. Geez.

superchu 6 years, 11 months ago

OLdgranny, I found out that I could'nt have children at age 31, hardly old and lazy. Infertility treatments are for the rich in the u.s. Most states do not require coverage at all. Since the infertility doctors are all for profit, how much do think it costs here? We would have to take out a mortgage on our home to get this treatment in the u.s.!

superchu 6 years, 11 months ago

Americorp, if you are so left wing, why are making fun of a particular group of people? Don't you think discrimination and predjudice comments are wrong, no matter what group you are talking about? Sounds like you are kind of predjudiced, and your remark should be removed.

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