Infertile couples from around the globe have been flocking to India to have a baby. Since 2002, commercial surrogacy has been legal in that country and is one of only a handful of nations where women can be paid to carry someone else’s genetic child.
It’s a booming industry estimated to bring in more than $400 million dollars annually.
Leslie Morgan Steiner, author of The Baby Chase, documented in her book one Arizona couple who successfully took the Indian surrogacy route twice.
“There was no way they could have afforded it in the United States. They couldn’t have come up with $100,000 for one baby let alone $300,000 for 3,” said Steiner. “For them it was the difference between having zero babies and the family they’ve always dreamed of.”
Although that affordability attracts many couples, critics are quick to point out that the surrogates – usually poor village women — are exploited and sometimes don’t even get paid. According to SAMA, a Delhi based resource group working on women’s and health issues in India, “there should be legislation & it should talk about respecting surrogate’s rights which is very shallow in its present form.”
The Indian Council for Medical Research established guidelines regulating Assisted Reproductive Technology procedures and surrogacy arrangements in 2005. Unfortunately there are no provisions in place for the surrogate in case complications arise months after giving birth.
“What happens to the surrogates after they have given birth? In the U.S. where we have a good healthcare system — it’s not an issue but in India it’s a very big issue. The surrogate is on her own,” says Steiner.
To further regulate the industry, India drafted the assisted reproductive technologies bill in 2013 to ensure the protection of the surrogate, the children, as well as the commissioning parents. Although the bill has yet to pass thru India’s parliament, it would at least put in place proper laws to give clarity and transparency to all the people involved.
(an earlier version of this story had an incorrect headline)
For more on this story watch this month’s Asian American Life:
(Tinabeth Piña is a correspondent for This American Life)
Other stories featured this month include:
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From the New-York Historical Society’s new Chinese American: Exclusion / Inclusion exhibition (now through April 19), host and reporter Ernabel Demillo interviews Amy Chin, whose own family history is featured, and New-York Historical Society President & CEO Louise Mirrer, who discusses the exhibit’s ambitious sweep from the 18th Century to the present, and reminds viewers of the little-known Exclusion Act of 1882, barring Chinese “skilled and unskilled laborers” from America until its repeal in 1943.
MAYOR DE BLASIO’S NEW ASIAN AMERICAN COMMISSIONERS
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s cabinet reflects the New York City’s diversity, with more Asian American appointees than ever before. Correspondent Paul Lin meets one-on-one with two new commissioners, Nisha Agarwal of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, and Meera Joshi of the NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission, both of whom discuss their families’ roots, as well as the Mayor’s plans and new initiatives for 2015.
ALTERNATIVE HEALING TREATMENTS
Therapeutic massages and alternative treatments are becoming more popular as people seek cures for debilitating winter colds and flus. Correspondent Minnie Roh goes to an elaborate Korean spa facility, King Spa in Palisades Park, New Jersey, that offers a variety of treatments, ranging from amethyst gem relaxation rooms to 200-degree heat to sweat out toxins.