Tuesday, August 24, 2010

India, the Rent-a-Womb Capital of the World

by Amana Fontanella-Khan

August 23, 2010

You can outsource just about any work to India these days, including making babies. Reproductive tourism in India is now a half-a-billion-dollar-a-year industry, with surrogacy services offered in 350 clinics across the country since it was legalized in 2002. The primary appeal of India is that it is cheap, hardly regulated, and relatively safe. Surrogacy can cost up to $100,000 in the United States, while many Indian clinics charge $22,000 or less. Very few questions are asked. Same-sex couples, single parents and even busy women who just don't have time to give birth are welcomed by doctors. As a bonus, many Indians speak English and Indian surrogate mothers are less likely to use illegal drugs. Plus medical standards in private hospitals are very high (not all good Indian doctors left in the brain drain).

Some describe this as a win-win situation. The doctors get clients, the childless get children and the surrogates get much-needed money. But some media horror stories have challenged this happy vision. In 2007 the Japanese couple Ikufumi and Yuki Yamada came to visit India's "Surrogacy Queen," Dr. Nayna Patel, founder of the Akanksha Infertility Clinic. A donor egg and surrogate mother was found and the embryo was implanted in the surrogate's womb. Before the child was born, however, the Yamadas divorced and Mrs. Yamada no longer wanted the child, which was not biologically hers. Mr. Yamada wanted the baby but could not adopt it due to an Indian colonial-era law that forbids single men from adopting girls. The absence of regulation meant that Baby Manji became India's first "surrogate orphan" until the father was finally able to adopt her several months, after the Supreme Court intervened. Other cases like the Japanese one have followed, involving Israeli, French, and German citizens.