By Julie Bindel – London – 08 Feb. 2016
Birthing a Market, A Study on Commercial Surrogacy (2012) estimates that there are currently 3000 clinics in India offering surrogacy services. Surrogacy is a 2.3 billion dollar industry annually. Around 10,000 foreign couples visit India for reproductive services each year.
Dr Nayna Patel, a frontrunner of the Indian surrogacy movement, heads the Akanksha Infertility Clinic in Gujarat, where more than 600 surrogate babies have been born. Not only does Patel see the industry growing, she is gearing up for it and is building what is being dubbed as the world’s first multi-million dollar ‘baby factory’ in Anand, Gujarat, which will be a one-stop-destination for surrogacy. Patel predicts a 12 percent growth in the sector per year.
Whilst the rich Westerners buying surrogacy services often see the ‘service’ as a human right, many would argue that using poor, brown women as incubators is racist, colonialist, and akin to prostitution.
In 2015, India, Nepal, Thailand, and Mexico—nearly all the major markets for commercial surrogacy—banned the practice for foreigners. But the global demand isn’t going anywhere.
Outsourcing Embryos, investigates the multi-billion dollar industry of gestational surrogacy in India.
Watch the episode: Outsourcing Embryos
When Rhonda and Gerry Wile had a baby boy in 2009, they did it the new old-fashioned way: with a surrogate. Fertility complications had left the couple in Arizona with few options other than to seek an egg donor and a surrogate, but they quickly learned they were priced out of the market in America, where surrogacy fees can easily soar beyond $100,000 in the seven states where it’s legal. So they did what many western couples do: They went to India.
Commercial surrogacy has emerged in recent years as a
volatile site in the encounter among gender, technology, and
society; one that is blurring the boundaries not just of the
body, but also of feminist praxis. In India, a country that has
become a favoured global destination for low-cost, high-tech
reproductive tourism, the practice of commercial surrogacy
is generating polarised representations: either as a win-
win situation or a race-to-the-bottom. Given the extreme
vulnerabilities of a vast majority of poor Indian women due
to exclusion and marginalisation in labour and job markets,
patriarchal social and family structures, and low educational
levels, the immediate financial gain through surrogacy assumes
significant motivation. Though the fertility market is based on
the principles of capitalist economy, its wider ramification both
within the country and beyond is yet to unfold. Commercial
surrogacy needs to be analysed along the lines of women’s
reproductive health issues, and within the larger context of
rights and justice.
Julie Bindel, a strident opponent of surrogacy, travelled to India to find out more about a practice worth an estimated £690m a year on the subcontinen.
In Ahmedabad, Gujarat, my driver is looking for one of the city’s IVF clinics. We turn on to a busy main road and I spot a sign on a crumbling wall reading “test tube babies”.
I climb the filthy stairwell and enter a small, dark reception area. In the adjoining room I spot a hospital stretcher and shelves full of metal petri dishes, forceps and hypodermic needles. Dr Rana* leads me into a windowless office.
Before we even sit down, he is telling me about a change in India’s surrogacy policy. In October last year, the government told fertility clinics to stop all surrogate embryo transfers to foreigners.
The move follows a proposed change in the law that would limit surrogacy to Indian couples, or where at least one of the commissioning parents has an Indian passport and residency. Having established that neither I nor the woman posing as my husband’s sister own an Indian passport, Rana advises me to go to Thailand. It is selfish to have a surrogate baby Julie Bindel.
“It costs twice the price [that it does] here,” says Rana, “but they will even do sex selection, so many people will go from India.” Having heard many stories about how commonplace outsourcing pregnancy and reproduction is, I am in India to investigate the country’s “rent-a-womb” industry.