Monday, March 10, 2008

"Reproductive outsourcing" taking off in India

Today's NYT reports (again) on the growing practice of "reproductive outsourcing" in India. For about $25,000 -- about a third what it would cost in the US -- would-be parents can get the whole enchilada: donor egg, the services of a pre-screened gestational carrier, medical expenses, plus travel and accommodations to pick up their little bundle of joy. And none of those pesky legal hassles that can sometimes crop up domestically, as the only names on the birth certificate are the customers'.

Interesting semantic note: Back when this practice was still called "surrogacy," there was at least some intimation that there was some relationship between the would-be mom and the gestational carrier. The would-be mom couldn't carry the pregnancy herself -- usually for health reasons -- and the gestational carrier was essentially pinch-hitting. "Outsourcing," on the other hand, is a business term, in which one "hires out" for unprofitable, dirty, or inconvenient labor.

If you haven't yet read Margaret Atwood's novel, The Handmaid's Tale, perhaps this is an opportune moment. (There's also a movie version, but as I haven't seen it, can't vouch for it. In the film The Island, clones are used to carry pregnancies ... and they are killed once they've served that purpose.)


MLO said...

Ah yes, more politics of fear. If you are going to refer to literature, perhaps you should also read the tons of books written in the field of SF that show that this is a normal progression:

-- Barrayar by Lois McMasters Bujold
-- The Ship Who Sang by Anne McCaffrey

Or check out the many Manga and Anime titles that have accepted the idea of reproductive technology as normal and necessary.

Oh, and, the NYT is not exactly a top notch paper these days. (Or ever if you look at their overall rate of accuracy in reporting.) The majority of couples using India are ethnic Indians. Most White Europeans go to the former East Block. Oh, and as Kenya starts to build its ReproTech, I expect those of African descent will be patronising those clinics.

Your views are rarely balanced on this. I again ask, where does the excessive fear come from?

Sue Trinidad said...

Hi, mlo--

Huh. No fear on my end. Why the hostility on yours?

My point in passing along the NYT article was just to note that poor women are carrying other women's children, for money, and that perhaps this raises ethical issues we might want to think about. I don't equate that with fear-mongering.

Thanks for the reading recommendations. I'm always interested in literary treatments of bioethical issues.

Bea said...

I thought it was funny that the clinics kept the surrogates and intended parents separate. I'm sure I've read stories about commercial surrogacy in India where the parties were allowed to meet - keep in touch afterwards, even.


Sue Trinidad said...

Me too, Bea--I wondered if that was part of the attraction, not having to worry (as the parents-to-be) about someone wanting to stay involved...just being able to move on and start a family. I wouldn't presume to know, but I did wonder why that policy was in place.

Bea said...

I'm sure it's tempting for some people. It takes a lot to give up the parental autonomy a fertile couple takes for granted - one of the big barriers to entering surogacy agreements for intended parents (and other third-party reproduction techniques/adoption). It's certainly not the "easy way out" some people like to paint it as, which is one of the reasons the slippery slope argument quickly begins to sound hysterical. (As if flying halfway around the world to do IVF and use a surrogate is "convenient" compared to doing it all the old-fashioned way, never mind the parental automy, etc.)

At the same time, many factors fuel a need for personal connection in the minds of intended parents - interests of their child, desire to elevate the experience above that of shopping transaction to something more in keeping with what it means to them, desire to share as much of the experience of pregnancy and birth as possible... one couple in this article has pixelated pictures of their donor and surrogate on the wall, in order to try and achieve that personal connection as best they can. So it surprises me that the clinic would make anonymity a blanket policy, as well as the fact that, based on other stories, I'm not convinced it's representative of all Indian surrogacy arrangements.