Posts tagged with: surrogacy

baby-budgetI’m sure Willie Nelson was not thinking about surrogacy issues when he wrote “If You’ve Got The Money, Honey,” but it’s applicable. $100,000? Check. 9 months? Check.

If you’ve got the money honey I’ve got the time
We’ll go honky tonkin’ and we’ll have a time
We’ll have more fun baby all way down the line
If you’ve got the money honey I’ve got the time

While surrogacy is a huge industry in India, it’s becoming a growing business here in the U.S. now. In Austin, Texas, one couple from New Jersey awaits the birth of their children via a surrogate:

A nurse spread gel on Nicole Benham’s pregnant belly and slowly moved a sonogram wand over it, describing the images on nearby monitors. This scene, in which parents get an early glimpse of baby, is played out many times a day in medical offices across America, but this plot has a twist.

Benham is carrying twins, but they are not her babies. They belong to Sheila and Kevin McWilliams, a New Jersey couple who lost their firstborn and can’t have another child together. They provided the eggs and sperm, and they will bear all costs, which average $75,000 to $100,000 and include fees to the surrogate, the matchmaking surrogacy company and lawyers for both parties, experts said.

Despite such costs, U.S. surrogate births have jumped 250 percent in eight years, and experts expect them to continue rising because of advances in reproductive technology, increasing numbers of same-sex marriages and growing acceptance of surrogacy.

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ethics surrogacy2India has a huge and still-growing medical tourism industry. A $2 billion part of this industry is the surrogacy business. India has few laws regulating surrogacy, and it is a popular place for people from the U.S. and the EU to head to for a baby. But the lack of regulations also means very little help, support and care for the women producing these children. The women literally become cogs in a giant machine. If one cog breaks, it’s simply replaced with another.

Sushma Pandey was a 17 year old scrap worker in 2010. She was lured into the surrogacy industry to produce eggs via hyperstimulation, which causes the woman to over-produce eggs via chemical inducement. She donated eggs three times in 18 months, and then she died.

The Mumbai High Court asked the police to investigate the role of the hospital, but so far no one has been held responsible. Pandey is India’s first known case of death from egg harvesting; she suffered “brain hemorrhage and pulmonary hemorrhages due to ovarian hyper stimulation,” according to news reports quoting her autopsy results.

For each session she had earned a little over $400.

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barcodebaby_mainJessica is a professional: a language teacher and a surrogate. She’s rented out her womb several times, as a way to help mainly gay couples have children. She says being pregnant is rather easy for her, but even she has some issues with the process.

[Jessica] had a less positive experience with a third set of New Yorkers seeking her services. She signed a nondisclosure agreement, which prevents her from naming the couple, and will only say they are “well-known,” “mega rich” and working in the entertainment industry. They were due to pay her a fee which was significantly higher than the amount she received the first time she was a surrogate.

“I really tried to bond with them, but it just wasn’t there,” she says. “It was like a business transaction. After a while, I started calling myself a commodity.”

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pacifierAlana Newman knows the pain caused by the fertility industry. She is a donor-conceived child (via sperm donation) and an egg donor. Newman is also the founder of AnonymousUs.org, which focuses on shedding light on the fertility industry.

Newman has written “Creating A Marketplace of Children: A Donor-Conceived Woman Explains the Harms of Third-Party Reproduction,” in which she shares the questions she had as a child about her own conception, and the painful reality of egg donation. She explains that one reason she chose to donate her own eggs when she was 20 years old was that it was “open:” the child conceived via her eggs could contact her in the future is he/she so wished. Of course, that “openness” only went one way; the woman donating her eggs would never be able to anything more than whether a boy or girl had been conceived via her “donation.”

Of course, Newman admits, the money was a big draw as well. She responded to a Craigslist (Craigslist!) ad:

Because I was young, and without any other marketable skills, the $8,000 advertised by the fertility clinic made selling my eggs outrageously more attractive than other job options. I believed that if I sold my eggs as an open ID donor, I would improve the system and make the world a better place. I also envisioned what I could do with that kind of money—record an album or visit Europe. It seemed like a needle-length journey to a whole new social class.

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surrogacy moneyAccording to the Polaris Project, human trafficking is defined as,

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery where people profit from the control and exploitation of others. As defined under U.S. federal law, victims of human trafficking include children involved in the sex trade, adults age 18 or over who are coerced or deceived into commercial sex acts, and anyone forced into different forms of “labor or services,” such as domestic workers held in a home, or farm-workers forced to labor against their will. The factors that each of these situations have in common are elements of force, fraud, or coercion that are used to control people.

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In some parts of the United States, it is legal to hire a surrogate to carry a baby. The surrogate is paid for her services, and then surrenders the baby to the adoptive parents. Shared Conception in Texas (a “surrogacy-friendly” state, according to their website) puts it this way when discussing fees:

Sure there are a myriad of ways to make $20,000+ a year! To be honest, when you factor in morning sickness, sleepless nights, swollen ankles, doctor appointments, clinic visits, injections, labor pains and everything else associated with pregnancy, no logical and reasonable person would apply for that job…unless they have a yearning and a calling to profoundly help a couple or individual who is unable to have kids.

They are certainly right: it’s impossible to put a price tag on motherhood…but they’re going to try! (more…)

The Center for Bioethics and Culture (CBC) is an organization committed to “bioethical issues” such as surrogacy, stem cell research and human cloning, amongst other issues. They have recently produced a documentary entitled “Breeders: a subclass of women?”

It is a cautionary tale, and a very sad one. The film focuses on women who chose to be surrogates (one chose surrogacy several times), and the turmoil that arose. The issue of surrogacy comes down to the buying and selling of children, one woman states; contracts and money are involved. Yet, one lawyer interviewed admits surrogacy is a “chaotic” area of the law – there are few standards and precedents to help when things go wrong, as they often do. (more…)

That’s the conclusion Wesley J. Smith, J.D., Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute, has come to. The surrogacy business in India is booming. While statistics are hard to come by, according to one estimate, surrogacy brings in more than $2 surrogate-mother-uk-media-3billion a year to India.  That does not translate to much money for the surrogate mothers, however. Women are paid about $8,000 for their medical expenses and having a baby. However, since it is typically poor women, many of whom are illiterate, that are targeted for surrogacy, many sign contracts they do not understand. India has few laws governing surrogacy, so the women have little or no rights. It is a situation ripe for abuse. (more…)

It was once said that the sun never set on the British Empire. The Brits colonized vast areas of the earth, civilizing exotic places  with the likes of afternoon tea and cricket. Oh, and happily using up natural resources along the way.

Those days are gone, but we’ve entered a new era of colonialism: renting the wombs of women in exotic places to fulfill a desire to have a child, under any circumstances. And now the natural resources are the wombs of destitute women.

Wesley J. Smith in National Review Online calls this “biological colonialism“, and cites a story from The Independent. This renting of wombs seems centered in India, where regulations are minimal, and the law allows not only married couples to rent a womb, but gays and lesbians as well. Smith notes this story:

Stephen Hill and his partner Johnathon Busher first held their twin girls in their arms less than 12 hours after their birth in a Delhi hospital last April.The gay couple, from the West Midlands, had been together for 18 years when they decided they wanted a family.

In 2011, they travelled to India and agreed a contract with a clinic in Delhi where Mr Hill’s sperm was used to fertilise an egg from a donor they had selected, and the resulting embryo was implanted in a surrogate mother. When the twins were born there was an “awkward moment” before the surrogate mother agreed to hand them over, as her husband had been telling medical staff the infants were his own. “She was reminded that it was a deal and she was fine. She was a little bit too attached and she needed to be reminded,” Mr Busher said. “We produced the contract and we were able to take them out of the hospital. We were so happy our feet didn’t touch the ground.”

It is hard to know where to begin with the horror of this “transaction”. The mother was a “bit too attached”? “We produced the contract”? Then there is the underlying notion that someone who wants a baby should simply have one – “I want it, I deserve it, I’m going to buy one” – as if it’s the latest tech toy or car.

200 years ago we were buying and selling people and calling it slavery. Now we’re calling it parenthood.