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India’s Controversial Baby Farms and the Poor Women Renting Their Wombs to Wealthy Foreigners

Paying a woman to carry a child is illegal in Australia, the UK, and several other countries. Even where it is allowed, it costs and arm and a leg. And that’s why commercial surrogacy is a thriving business in India. Infertile couples all over the world are now looking to Indian women to help them have their babies. Indian surrogacy clinics provide an economical alternative for childless couples and in return, the money that these surrogate mothers from poor backgrounds receive is helping them build their life. It’s a win-win situation really, if you choose to look at it that way.

Akanksha Infertility Clinic, located in the small town of Anand in Gujarat State, is one of the top places for commercial surrogacy in India. A surrogacy package here costs about $30,000, from which about $8,000 is given to the surrogate. Given that over one-third of the Indian population is extremely poor, there are plenty of women more than willing to bear children for others. The clinic has been in operation for the past 10 years, and over 700 surrogate babies have been delivered there so far. All the money earned from these treatments has hugely impacted the economic situation of the town and its surrounding areas.

30-year-old Neeta Makwara, who lives in the nearby village of Nadiad, has gone through surrogacy twice. In 2008, she gave birth to a baby boy for a foreign couple. And she had twins again in 2011. The first time around, her husband squandered all the money from the treatment. But Neeta was wiser the second time – she used the money to build a three-storey house. She’s even rented out the ground floor, so that earns her a bit of cash every month.

Photo: Medical Law

For 40-year-old Sarla Patelia, from Manjipura village, the surrogate program has meant a lot. She’s been able to pay for her husband’s tumor operation, build a house, and move her family out of their old tin-roof hut. The mother-of-two said: “It completely changed our lives. We don’t actually have a source of income at the moment. We’re still living off the money from the surrogacy.”

Commercial surrogacy was made legal in India in 2002, and costs about a fifth of what it does in the United States. And it is the affordability that attracts foreign couples to India to have their children. “The surrogates are trustworthy, committed, and the vices like drugs, smoking and drinking are not seen amongst women,” said Dr. Nayana Patel, a medical director at Akanksha Clinic. She also added that Indian doctors and medical technology are well-regarded, and that the rural women generally lead clean lifestyles.

Photo: Medical Law

Dr. Jatin Shah, who runs the Mumbai Infertility Clinic and IVF Centre in the city of Mumbai, said that finding women who are willing to act as surrogates is quite easy. But he doesn’t cater to foreign patients yet, and he doesn’t plan to unless a proper surrogacy law is in place in India. At Dr. Shah’s clinic, the women are screened and selected based on the health of their uterus. Chosen surrogates are paid as much as $6,500 for carrying a child and they can even receive a bonus from the couple.

According to Dr. Shah, the concerns of the surrogate mother not wanting to give up the baby are baseless. “Why should it happen?” he asked. “She needs the money. I haven’t heard of a single case yet in India. When you go to the grassroots and talk to the mother, she has two of her own children, she is doing this for money. She has no interest in getting linked up with the child. She can’t look after her own, so there is no question of looking after somebody else’s child.”

Photo: The Hindu

In any case, Dr. Shah also points out that there’s a legal contract drawn up between the surrogate mother and the patient. “The minute she delivers, the baby is handed over to the genetic parents. Unless she absconds in the fifth month and disappears. Why would she do that because she needs the money? We’ve done about a hundred surrogates and they’ve all just been very happy that they’ve been paid the promised amount and from that money they could buy their husband a taxi or buy themselves a house or pay for their kid’s education. That is their motive, which we fulfill for them.”

But not all surrogacy clinics in India might be so ethical. In many areas, the women might be exploited and left to fend for themselves. That’s why it’s recommended that foreign couples conduct extensive research before they make a choice. Like this British couple, who used the service at Akanksha clinic last year after a thorough research. They had a baby girl – genetically their own but born through a surrogate.

 

While the couple preferred to remain anonymous, the wife, a 37-year-old management consultant, said: “When you’re from the West, you don’t do this lightly. When we did the research and visited we were reassured that the women were volunteering and it wasn’t exploitative. We’re obviously very conscious of human rights.” She said that a few of the other clinics she contacted in India seemed too commercial and pushy. Finally, she zeroed in on Akanksha.

When the surrogate and her husband came to visit the baby a week after she was born, it was an emotional moment for both couples. “They were thanking me, which is what made me emotional because they’ve given me this baby,” said the mother. “The surrogate’s husband was able to start his own diamond business with the money. They’re moving into a bigger house. For them, this money means so much. This place actually helps people. Yes, it helps people like my husband and myself, who have been married for 11 years and have tried lots of different avenues to have a child.”

 

“We’ve got the happiness of a lifetime now having this child but it’s not just a one-way thing. It helps the surrogates and their families as well.”

Source: Daily Mail

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