Outsourcing Surrogate Pregnancy
These days U.S. outsources everything to India. So why not pregnancy? Especially when a growing number of Indian women are willing to carry an American child. By some estimates, Indian surrogacy is already a $445-million-a-year business. Commercial surrogacy was legalized in India in 2002. The cost comes to about $25,000, roughly a third of the typical price in the United States. That includes the medical procedures; payment to the surrogate mother, which is often, but not always, done through the clinic; plus air tickets and hotels for two trips to India (one for the fertilization and a second to collect the baby). Surrogate mothers in India, under commercial surrogacy programs are usually cared for with amongst the best highly advanced medical, nutritional, and overall care available in the field anywhere in the world. Having English speaking doctors available in India is another reason for people choosing to go with this option. This makes people feel far more comfortable with the doctor understanding them and the concerns that they may be having.
In Anand, a city in the western state of Gujarat where the practice was pioneered in India, surrogate mothers are pregnant with the children of couples from the United States, Britain and elsewhere. Most of them live together in a hostel attached to the clinic there. The Akanksha clinic is at the forefront of India's booming trade in so-called reproductive tourism — foreigners coming to the country for infertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization. The clinic's main draw, however, is its success using local women to have foreigners' babies. The business has taken off beyond anything it imagined. At any given time, it has about 150 foreign couples on its waiting list, and every week three new women apply to be surrogated, including clients from Taiwan, Japan, the U.S., Europe, and Australia.
The government is actively promoting India as a medical tourism destination. India now has about 350 facilities that offer surrogacy as a part of a broader array of infertility-treatment services. Last year about 1,000 pregnancy attempts using surrogates were made at these clinics. This year, it is estimated the figure will jump to 1,500. Since 2005, the practice of surrogacy has been operating under guidelines established by the Indian Council of Medical Research, a government body. But a new law is in the works that aims to regulate the surrogacy industry by standardizing such things as contract terms and surrogate compensation. To avoid potential legal disputes, it will also govern what parental information is given on birth certificates. What's more, the new law, which could be introduced in Parliament as early as December, would require clinics to register surrogacy cases and report their outcomes. At the end of the day, we're going to have statistics, which is very important, partly because of the implications for India's burgeoning medical-tourism industry.
Surrogate pregnancy is a rising trend that will most likely only gain in popularity. While there are many positive things to be said about outsourcing pregnancy, there are also other issues to be considered. The most difficult issues to face when considering outsourcing surrogate pregnancy are and will continue to be the ethical ones. While surrogacy can be viewed as a paid job, it may still be unethical to think of the mental and physical strain of childbirth as a simple rental of a human body. Some would argue that outsourcing pregnancy is exploitation at it its worst. On the other hand, surrogacy is the only option for some childless couples. With the exorbitant costs of in vitro fertilization and other treatment methods in the U.S., India seems like a dream come true for some couples. Both sides do benefit, and as long as standards are in place, the best option for the childless couples in the U.S. continues to remain outsourcing surrogate pregnancy.