Sunday, June 10, 2012


I came across some statements today that hurt and upset me. I haven't read much out there from folks who are of the opinion that Indian surrogacy is equated with exploitation, mostly because what little I've read seems to be based on ignorance and false assumptions. Let me analyze what I found, some of which I've already addressed.

In India, many Indian surrogates are of the lower castes and are, in fact, very poor.
True, they are. Your money is going much further and helping them so much more than it could in the U.S. Being poor does not make you an idiot who could not possibly know what they are getting into.

They live in communal houses and kept on strict bed-rest for the duration of their pregnancies.
False assumptions here. I don't know of any clinics that treat the communal housing like a prison cell, and in fact the women are free to come and go but choose to spend most of their time in the communal housing. It's nice, air conditioned, and they aren't choosing to waste all their new money on fancy shopping trips about town. Sure, naps are on the schedule to make sure they do take care of themselves, especially during the hottest parts of the day. Communal housing is actually a great thing, and at our clinic is an option most of the women choose to take. They get a nurse, a chef, medical care weekly, classes of all kinds, as well as a bunch of new friends who can understand each other. The housing is nicer than where they would usually live, and their family is free to visit. Bed rest can be stricter at the end of the pregnancy, but why is that bad?

They are (in most cases) transferred with MULTIPLE fetuses (sometimes 3 or more) to ensure a successful pregnancy, all without fully understanding what they are doing.
Where to start. Capital letters do not make your argument more valid. Again, why is it assumed that they won't understand what they are doing but an American surrogate will? Do you have to have money in order to make a responsible decision for yourself? They are perfectly capable adults who are counseled and aware of what they are doing, and selective reduction if necessary is done to ensure the health of the surrogate.  They have all been pregnant before, so that understanding of what it entails is a given.  Women all over the world, surrogates or not, are frequently implanted with multiple embryos (they are not fetuses yet) to try to get success. Twins may be riskier, but not necessarily so irresponsible that it is exploitation. They know going in that twins are a possibility. We did four embryos on the first try with no implantation whatsoever. This is typical in IVF and I don't consider it irresponsible. I understand some people have religious problems with reductions when you do get implantation of  more than one embryo. I don't.  I am a religious person too. I'm not going to even try to get into a religious argument here, because I've found that a person convinced against their will is a person of the same opinion still. I think we can all agree on Octomom though.

They are offered money for the use of their bodies.
So are American surrogates. Is there a point coming? While not in such an internal and lengthy way, we pay people for the use of their bodies all the time. If it is an informed decision I don't see why it is assumed as  exploitation for someone to allow another to make use of what their body can do that the other person's won't let them do.

They are not following their hearts.
This statement upsets me the most. So ignorant. The majority I'm sure are are absolutely following their hearts. Indian women are far more likely understand the pain of infertility more than American women, given the expectations placed on women in their culture. An American surrogate could do it for the money and not be "following their heart" just as easily as an Indian woman could. I think it is wonderful if a surrogate and the parent form a lifelong relationship, but why is it automatically wrong and immoral and exploitative if they do not? I have never met our surrogate, but I feel bonded to her and have sent her a letter of appreciation and gifts and know that she has heard from us just what this means to us. And frankly, even if she approached this in a business like way and she did not feel all that emotional or felt no bond to me, I do not fault her for that at all. As long as she cares about taking good care of our babies for 9 months, I don't see the problem here. Why is it for so many all about the relationship between the two women in order for it to be seen as mutually beneficial and moral?

One surrogacy can often mean for them more money than their family would make in a lifetime but it also mean seclusion. Many women travel hundreds of miles to live in the surrogacy center so that they will not be recognized and bring shame on their families for what they are about to do!
First of all, a "lifetime" is stretching it. And yes, seclusion is an informed risk she is taking. I think these surrogates are brave in taking that risk, because it is one more thing they are doing that is slowly affecting cultural change and empowering the women of India. And they travel hundreds of miles because India is a large country and the clinics are in the big cities typically and they will need to be nearby for regular care and checkups, not just to avoid judgment.

Many of the surrogacy clinics in India are not regulated and often the children are not allowed to go home with their parents (IP's) because of legal issues, faulty contracts, misunderstandings or government regulations. That is not the case here.
The regulation does have a way to go, I'll admit that much. "Often" is once again stretching things. There have been a select few folks with tons of press whose children were citizenless and could not return to the country of the parent's origin because they did not address in advance the laws of their home country not recognizing surrogacy as legitimate. So the parents stayed with the children in India. I blame the parents here more than the regulation in India, and it seemed like the laws of the home country were what was primitive in these cases. I would also add that too much regulation and you will be like Britain where if you are infertile surrogacy is next to impossible. If you want to know what I mean, read the free e-book by Bobby and Nikki at  They went to hell and back in what is known as a "developed country", but in the "third world" of India is finally where they found hope.  I've been in contact with Jan Sjodin from the first article. They did have a very bad experience, though I've read about lots of folks who had good experiences at the same clinic. Hopefully this means that clinic has straightened up their act, but it is very sad that happened to them. I hope there is some more regulation to prevent that. I can't say I know enough to know that could never happen in America, and I seem to recall some stories of American surrogates who took advantage of intended parents as well.  Everyone needs to inform themselves of the risks, protect themselves legally, and in my opinion go through people and clinics with an extremely good reputation because that to me is the best protection because the law is always changing and only now seems to be catching up. The second article is a mostly balanced one, though the author tries to artificially darken the connotations by saying the surrogate is "haunted" by her memories when she expresses that she does wonder still how the child is doing and prays for her. I will wonder how our surrogate is doing and pray for her for the rest of my life I'm sure, but that does not mean I'll be haunted anymore than this woman she interviewed is. I am baffled that the person who made these statements even read this article, because the two are not congruous.

Although surrogates are often happy to see the extra compensation, we save for a vacation, or a down payment on a new car, maybe even help pay off our debt, we don't NEED the money.
Really? Seriously?Again with the capitalization. According to who? While I'm sure most surrogates want to help people, money is the primary reason most are doing it. I'm certain it is only the surrogates who are already friends or family members who ask for no compensation who truly are not doing it for the money.  And I don't know about you, but I'm happier if a person who does need the money is getting it, rather than an American surrogate who is using the money to finance other things she wants but doesn't need. And I'm sure many surrogates in the U.S. have plenty of financial needs that are being met. Why is it better to give the money to an American surrogate who wants a new car instead of an Indian woman who at times has struggled to put food on the table for her family? That is just an example, but I don't think it is so much of a stretch to be a fallacy.

We don't do it for money, we do it because we see a need and have an overwhelming desire to help and make a difference. We don't get rich here but we are also not poor.
Yeesh. I already addressed this. You can be altruistic and also accept compensation, and it does not depend on where you live in the world or how much you had to start with.  Yes...being poor sucks in many ways. But it doesn't automatically make you less of a human being or less capable of making good decisions for yourself. And it doesn't mean that two women reaching across the world to help each other are engaging in exploitation just because one of them lives by what the other defines as poverty.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post. I think all too often people don't understand that the money a surrogate makes in India can be life changing for both her and her family. It can give her children the opportunity to become educated and get out of poverty, as well as herself by starting a business (which many, many surrogates at Patel's clinic have done).
    Imagine how many western counterparts would be lining up at the door if they were told they would make 10-15 years salary being a surrogate.

    I think what is interesting about these articles is that they almost never mention that the need to use surrogacy is not strictly a "western privilege". Do they pass as much judgement on Indian women seeking a surrogate due to infertility? Especially in a culture where family is EVERYTHING and infertility in women is a source of incredible shame. In my experience in Dr. Patel's clinic (2 cycles) I was FAR more likely to meet Indian intended parents than western ones. There were days that I was the only Caucasian there.
    Most of these negative articles/comments really do not do the research and rely on knee-jerk reactions. I'm hoping one day we can change that.