Check out this article discussing Chinese couples who travel to the USA for surrogacy. This is an interesting addition to the increasingly complex network of transnational commercial surrogacy routes. In this case, the legal status of commercial surrogacy in the USA and trust in a well established system are important factors drawing IPs from China to the US, and US citizenship for children born via a surrogate mother in the US is an added bonus. It is interesting that the IPs highlighted in this article have also become entrepreneurs of this novel connection between China and the USA. Jiang, like other IPs through transnational surrogacy, acts a facilitator between surrogacy agencies in one country, in this case the US and IPs in his home country, in this case China:
He now consults with eight surrogacy agencies, connecting them with Chinese clients, the vast majority of whom suffer from infertility, Jiang says. Others clients have included gay men and heterosexual couples barred from having a second child in China.
Transnational commercial surrogacy seems to be a new space for entrepreneurship: new forms of facilitation, agencies, consultants, ‘match making’…. in all of this surrogate mothers are central, yet make the least profit (or even find themselves out of pocket in domestic altruistic surrogacy arrangements).
Over the last week or so I have been reading the flurry of articles reporting on baby Gammy and waiting for the media flurry to settle. It does not seem to be settling, instead the stories of surrogacy in Thailand are becoming increasingly more horrifying by the day. First we learnt that an Australian couple had abandoned one of their twins because he was born with Down’s syndrome, but the couple in question reportedly claimed not to know that they had a son, then we learnt that the father is a child sex offender. Could it get any worse? Finally, the couple spoke out publicly in an interview on 60 minutes. I think for many, this interview raised more concerns for the little girl in the couple’s care. And then, there is the story of the 24 year old Japanese business man who has fathered more than a dozen babies through different surrogacy clinics in Thailand. The knee jerk reaction to these extreme and disturbing stories is that commercial surrogacy should be banned. But would this help? I believe banning commercial surrogacy overseas will not stop IPs from taking this route. It is, after all, their last option in what is often a long journey into parenthood. During the course of my research I found that most of the IPs I spoke with were willing to pursue surrogacy at all costs, and despite changes to the law in NSW (effective in 2011) extending the ban on commercial surrogacy to overseas. What we need here is regulation, regulation, regulation. Should I say it again? Regulation. We need to offer IPs counselling, and ensure that surrogates are also receiving counselling. We need to ensure that the clinics and other go-betweens are following ethical guidelines. I could go on and on. But the point is, banning surrogacy, or commercial surrogacy, will push these arrangements underground. Regulation will enable greater visibility, appropriate support for all those involved, and decrease the likelihood of such extreme cases occurring.
According to this news report today, Georgia may be joining the UK and Australia with a ban on commercial surrogacy arrangements:
But as surrogacy reportedly thrives, Georgian experts and officials have become increasingly concerned about a lack of oversight. With help from the United Nations Population Fund, authorities are now starting to look at other countries’ policies on surrogacy and consider making changes to Georgia’s current practices. “There is a common agreement that the issue of surrogacy needs to be better regulated, and legislative, bioethical, social and economic factors need to be considered,” explained Deputy Minister of Labor, Health and Social Issues Mariam Jashi.
From a market standpoint, there is plenty of circumstantial evidence that surrogacy is a lucrative sector in a country where well-paying jobs are scarce. “We have to recruit [surrogates] all the time, as the demand is much higher than we can actually meet,” noted Tamara Barkalaia, head of operations at New Life, one of seven surrogacy agencies in Tbilisi. In 2013, New Life handled 41 deliveries, she said.
Surrogacy is a hot topic in India. Activist and women’s groups are very much engaged in active research and policy work to ensure women working as surrogates are legally supported with rights that protect their interests.
And it seems that artists are also engaging in this subject. ‘Rabdi‘ is the story of a woman who chooses surrogacy work to make enough money to provide a better education and medical care for her disabled child.
With the up coming program “uncovering” surrogacy in India, I’m starting to feel like surrogacy hostels in India are a like ‘ye olde curiosity shop’ for western reporters. They enter the same hostels attached to the same clinic in the same city in India and report on exploitation, again. I’m not saying we don’t need media covering stories of surrogacy, but a more nuanced approach (and different clinics for example) would be really welcome around now…
Great news for families in California formed with the help of an egg or sperm donor :
“It is critical that judges have the ability to recognize the roles of all parents so that no child has to endure separation from one of the adults he or she has always known as a parent,” state Sen. Mark Leno told the LA Times.
You can read the full story here: http://gawker.com/california-children-can-now-legally-have-three-parents-1441519480
Check out this image of the planned one stop shop Doctor Patel of Akshanka has planned! It looks like a design inspired by neurons. You can read the article here if you are interested in a bit of sensational reporting 😉 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2439977/The-baby-factory-In-huge-clinic-India-hundreds-women-paid-5-000-Western-couples-babies.html
I’m not sure about the title of this one – if anything is being outsourced in commercial/compensated surrogacy arrangements it is the uterus rather than life. Nonetheless this is an interesting account of transnational surrogacy.
You can have a read here: http://www.sfchronicle.com/local/bayarea/item/India-surrogacy-23858.php
*I posted this in March on an earlier blog ‘Surrogacy Australia‘ I decided to deactivate the blog because the title was miss leading. The IP information group Families Through Gestational Surrogacy wanted to use the title Surrogacy Australia. I thought it would be useful to re-post this entry here*
Linda Burney and Jenni Millbank edit delete
Tuesday, March 08, 2011
Yesterday the ABC Radio program ‘Life Matters’ presented ‘Surrogacy: the case for and against’. The segment ran for about 20 minutes with the NSW minister for community service Linda Burney giving her case against commercial surrogacy and Professor Jenni Millbank of UTS Law giving the case for commercial surrogacy.
It was not as straight forward and “for” and “against” surrogacy more broadly but more of a set of arguments for and against commercial surrogacy specifically. To summarise some of the main points;
According to Linda Burney (who was involved with the recent extension of the ban on commercial surrogacy in NSW to overseas):
1. The NSW ban on commercial surrogacy is more about the tightening up of regulations and rights in relation to the legal status of altruistic surrogacy
2. The reasoning behind the recent legislative ban on commercial surrogacy in NSW both in Australia and abroad is mainly about the rights of the child to have access to their gestational and genetic parentage.
3. The emotional and physiological experience of pregnancy and birth should not be underestimated.
4. There is evidence of the exploitation of both the child and the surrogate mother.
5. concern about the commodification of children and the perception of women as vessels.
6. Concern about a lack of regulations in the case that a child is born disabled or if something happens to (harm the health of) the surrogate mother during the pregnancy or birth.
Jenni Millbank’s main points:
1. Surrogacy “takes a very special kind of woman” and the emotional experience of surrogacy is the same whether the surrogate mother receives compensation for her time or not.
2. The main area requiring attention in terms of law and regulation is that of informed consent and the right of the surrogate mother to makes decisions throughout the pregnancy and after the birth of the child.
3. The involvement of money regarding the latter statement makes this scenario more difficult (but not impossible to regulate).
4. The response of couples who are unable to have children without outside help in cases where the law restricts outside help are more likely to travel overseas in order to have a child of their own.
5. Adoption in Australia is both rare and difficult with a number of exclusions including the exclusion of same sex couples, couples past a specific age, either of a couple being definable as having a disability. And fostering takes a “special kind of person” because the fostering parents must be prepared to allow the child to return to their genetic parents.
I think it is interesting that Linda Burney’s case against commercial surrogacy does not give any reasons specific to commercial surrogacy – her points could apply to any form of surrogacy and perhaps also adoption. It is unclear how her argument relates to commercial surrogacy specifically.
Jenni Millbank’s argument for commercial surrogacy seems much closer to the point as she is specifically comparing some differences and similarities between commercial and altruistic surrogacy.
What is missing from this argument is the lived experience of commercial surrogacy, we are missing the voices of people who have experienced surrogacy first hand: the voices of intended parents who have become parents through commercial surrogacy arrangements, or altruistic surrogacy arrangements and the voices of surrogate mothers commercial or altruistic – and of course the voices of any children born of a surrogate mother.
I have just finished reading a fantastic article, Cycling Overseas, a recently published journal article by anthropologist Andrea Whittaker and Amy Speier . It is based on research in Thailand, the USA and the Czech republic with a focus on ARTs and medical tourism. It is an interesting read and I would say it fits into a feminist framework. The main point I wanted to raise was to do with the authors discussion of work in commercial surrogacy in India. Whittaker and Speier found that foreigner IPs were discouraged from meeting with the gestational surrogate who would carry their child. So far I have found that although many of the IPs (particularly IMs) I have spoken with, who have used commercial surrogacy in India, had the opposite experience and were encouraged to meet the woman who would act as a gestational surrogate, quite a few either did not want to meet their surrogate or were discouraged from meeting her. It would be great to hear from the parents and intended parents who have experience of commercial surrogacy in India, what are you experiences?