Reproductive Outsourcing

An interesting trend is developing in America and across the globe: reproductive outsourcing.  Yes, you read that right.  Parents are paying for overseas surrogates to carry their child to term.  And what happens to be one of the most popular overseas locations for the process?  India.

Surrogacy is one of several assisted reproduction options available to couples who have experienced difficulty producing a child.  Surrogacy involves the implantation of a fertilized egg into the womb of a third party, referred to as the surrogate (the technical term is gestational carrier).  The surrogate carries the baby to term, at which point it is transferred, physically and legally, to the waiting parents.  The process can be very difficult and time consuming.  Because there is not a guarantee that any one egg will produce a viable pregnancy, oftentimes multiple eggs must be fertilized.  With each attempt, the prices rise.  This makes multiple attempts fairly expensive.  Should the process be as success, the issue of the welfare of the surrogate mother can bring additional costs.  If a couple decides to use a surrogacy service, the care of the surrogate mother is usually incorporated into the cost of the service.

Additionally, there are surrogacy laws that must be considered.  For example, in America, there seems to be three categories when it comes to the enforcement of surrogacy contracts between potential surrogates and the party seeking to have a child: either the state enforces them (followed by states such as Virginia, Florida, and Illinois), prohibits them (the path chosen by states such as Washington, D.C., Arizona, and Indiana), or they decline to enforce them (policy adopted by New York, New Jersey and Kentucky among others).  If a couple enters into a surrogacy agreement in the wrong state and the surrogate mother decides to back out, they may run into problems in attempting to have the contract enforced.

What seems to be one of the main draws for couples using Indian surrogates is the cost.  Several sources list the price for surrogacy in the United States as being well over $100,000.00.  The Medical Tourism Company (a site that acts as a go-between for individuals seeking to have medical procedures done in India) lists their packages as between $22,000.00 – $35,000.00.  Their website states that “The Surrogacy package price estimate above, covers doctor fees, legal fees, surrogate work up, antenatal care, delivery charges, surrogate compensation, egg donor, drugs and consumables, & IVF costs” (IVF means in vitro fertilization).

While this is great news for couples who may not be able to have a child otherwise, there are some concerns to be addressed.  For example, what are the living conditions of the surrogates?  Part of the reason the costs are so high in the U.S. is because typically certain standards must be met to ensure the most successful pregnancy possible.  Are there similar expectations for these programs?  And while it might seem far-fetched, I would be concerned with the possibility of human rights violations.  I can’t help but picture droves of young women being forced to carry someone else’s child so that their families can earn money.  How closely are the conditions under which surrogates are procured monitored?  And which laws should govern the birth of a child  through a surrogate in a different country?

While I definitely appreciate the idea of a couple who would otherwise be unable to have a child being given the opportunity to raise one, I have to admit that some of the possible implications make me a bit uncomfortable.