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.
Indian ARTs (assisted reproductive technology) bill has been in draft form since 2010. While I was living in India academics and women’s rights groups explained that the bill could be passed “any day” that there was no way of knowing when the billed passed. Three years down the track the bill is still in draft form, but according to this article (here) voting may make the difference. It seems that there is no way of knowing when it will happen but there remains hope that it will happen.
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.
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 just came across this short documentary of a Dutch couple beginning their surrogacy journey in Hyderbad:
There are two ceremonies involving sacred thread in India (that I know of). One celebrates the relationship between brothers and sisters and another the relationship between a boy and his spiritual identity. Raksha Bandhan or the bond of protection is an annual festival in India. During the related ceremony sisters tie a sacred thread, or rakhi, around their brothers wrist. This act symbolises the sisters wish for her brothers well-being as well as the brothers responsibility to protect his sister. The sacred thread ceremony or Upanayana is an initiation ceremony wherein a boy accepts a spiritual identity and teacher. The Jenoi (sacred thread) is tied around the initiated boy’s wrist. In both instances the sacred thread is worn by a male and reminds him of his responsibilities whether related to his spiritual integrity or his brotherly responsibilities. Women may tie the thread but do not wear it. So, it is interesting that a new book on an IP experience of surrogacy in India is titled the Sacred Thread. The author, Adrienne Arieff describes her unusual journey into motherhood. Unlike most IPs who become parents through surrogacy in India, Arieff was able to move to Anand in Gujurat for the duration of the pregnancy and spend time with Vaina, her children’s surrogate. I love the idea of claiming the very male symbol of the sacred thread to describe the relationship between herself and Vaina as well as that between Vaina and the authors children. I can not think of a thread more sacred than the life giving umbilical cord – I love that this notion weaves itself into the imagery of the title.
All the surro families I have had the pleasure to meet through this research have amazingly calm and content babies. I think it is because these beautiful babies were so wanted for so, so long. Research in the UK from a psychological perspective of parents who have babies through a surrogacy found:
“greater psychological well-being and adaptation to parenthood by mothers and fathers of children born through surrogacy arrangements than by the comparison group of natural-conception parents, with the exception of emotional over involvement, which is discussed below. Both mothers and fathers in surrogacy families reported lower levels of stress associated with parenting than did their counterparts with naturally conceived children, and the mothers also showed lower levels of depression. With respect to parent–child relationships, the findings were again more positive for the surrogacy parents than the natural-conception parents. Mothers and fathers in surrogacy families showed greater warmth and attachment-related behavior toward their infants, and greater enjoyment of parenthood, than did natural-conception parents. The surrogacy fathers were also more satisfied with the parental role” (Golombok et. al. 2004; 408)
My research differs from Golombok et. al. in that I am looking at surrogacy from an anthropological perspective, with different methodologies, and I have been looking specifically at commercial surrogacy arrangements. However, as I stated at the beginning of this post I have found that all the surro babies I know are fantastically content and happy children, so it looks like the findings correlate despite the different paths.
‘Sacha, The little Bright Shooting Star’ by Sofia Prezani is now available to purchase. It is the most recent children’s book aimed at children born through a surrogacy arrangement. I will include a link to purchase the book soon. The illustrations are fantastic! Take a look at the preview of the cover:
Bear Cover Final