Friday, 28 January 2011

Is Indian Surrogacy Medical Tourism?

The surrogacy debate has been recently reignited with a Melbourne court granting full parental rights to a gay couple with a child born to a surrogate mother in India.

Medical tourism has not been all bad. Uninsurable Americans getting bypasses in Delhi’s Apollo Hospital rather than perishing on a long waiting list in New York. A triumph of Indian expertise. An enormous revenue for the country.

Does surrogacy deserve to be classed in this revolution? Should surrogacy be even legal?

Years ago while I was studying in Delhi University, my Indian guardian Dr. Nina Dey, told me with furious indignation a story from when she was conducting research in Bangladesh. An American company invited her on a jet boat ride to an almost inaccessible island in the marshes of the delta- unaware that she spoke Bengali. The company was claiming they were conducting charitable works but it was discovered they were, under questioning from Dr. Dey, in fact guinea pigs in fertility drug trials. Many of them were very seriously ill.

This left an impression on me and I am happy to let it prejudice my views on the surrogacy debate.

Indian wombs are not for sale. India is not a gynecological two-dollar shop.

I feel for infertile couples. Being an unhinged lefty I feel even more sorry for gay couples, which by the nature of the beast are inherently infertile. But they will have to max out the credit cards, fly to Kentucky and pay a Hillbilly.

India is looking to legislate an industry that by some accounts has 3000 clinics and annually earns India half a billion US dollars. This has stemmed from innumerable complications.

Starting with the technical. A German couple contracted a clinic for a child. The German Government refused citizenship nor residency for the child because that country does not allow paid surrogacy. The Indian Government simply does not recognize children born to foreign parents who have donated eggs in the IVF process. Children are caught in this limbo.

A Japanese couple divorced during the gestation period of the Indian mother. They dropped the child like a hot potato. After a protracted legal battle the child was adopted by the Japanese man’s 74-year-old grandmother.

India has decriminalized homosexual behavior but, confusingly, it is still not legal. Press pundits in India have speculated that this may disallow gay couples entering a surrogacy contract.

These are relatively inconsequential. The industry practices demonic behavior.

The Indian mother is locked up for 9 months to ‘ensure’ a healthy child. This is just wholly bloody unacceptable. Try locking up a Californian surrogate mum for 9 months in a contractual arrangement and you would have even Sarah Palin reduced to tears.

A surrogate mother has often borne many children. Her health may suffer a heavy toll from this. Allowing a system that irreversibly punishes her body for monetary gain is wrong. Allowing a system that punishes her body out of her sheer desperation is criminal.

What happens if a child is born physically or mentally challenged or just not attractive? You can’t tell me this hasn’t happened in the thousands of surrogate births a year. Do the foreigners reject the child with a satanic quality control?

What eventuates, if the Indian mother gives birth to more than one child or more than what is in the shopping cart? Is that child a surplus to requirements? Is the child killed at birth? Tragically, this could have eventuated in a stone cold business.

If the challenged or ‘surplus’ child is not killed at birth who is to look after the poor soul? The surrogate mother? Who has not been contracted to look after the child, possibly for life. The clinic? Who run a business? These hard questions raise the possibility of widespread infanticide.

The surrogate mothers are almost exclusively impoverished rural poor who are often illiterate. Whose scope of choice is minuscule compared to the relatively rich couples that pay for their child.

This hasn’t stopped a wonderfully courageous woman who has petitioned the Delhi High Court to keep her child that she refuses to surrender. How seriously will she be taken? Up against what would have to be a superiorly funded legal team and a judiciary that favor English medium types.

Masters to this repugnant slavery have to stopped. They are the children shoppers and the shopkeepers of these clinics who pay these women as little as $500 USD.


  1. Very good read as always.

    These valid questions need to be answered. Making laws is not enough specially looking at condition of judicial reforms in India.

    And above all humanity can not be compromised with laws and its interpretation in a court.

  2. Thank you very much Shiv. Thanks for reading the column so loyally. Your comment was thought provoking. Because you are dead right, judicial solutions have a depressing history.

  3. You can instantly feel that in a place like India, the major motivation behind renting a womb has to be desperation (on both sides really). Effective policing and organizing a sector has never been amongst our stronger capabilities. The surrogates are surely being exploited for their naivety not just by the clinics and their staff but also by the couples who engage their services. The benefits to the surrogate is nothing compared to the risk of being psychologically scarred for life. Laws are no guarantee as they can be flaunted anytime without much repercussions.

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