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India’s surrogacy debate: Chance of a lifetime or economic exploitation

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Surrogate pregnancy is the practice of fertilizing an egg through in vitro fertilization (IVF) and then implanting it in a surrogate mother for gestation. The child is genetically the same as the donor parents and simply grows inside the womb of the surrogate mother. In many places in the world, this not only provides babies for childless couples, but also a great deal of money for surrogate mothers.

In India, this practice is carried out for profit. We meet Dr. Nayna Patel, who runs the Akanksha Infertility Clinic in Gujaret. She has helped over 500 infertile couples produce a baby with the help of a surrogate mother. In India, this also allows surrogate mothers to earn a life-changing sum of money.

While pregnant, the surrogate mothers stay at a special house, where they are completely taken care of. Smoking, drinking, and other vices are strictly forbidden here. With chauffeurs and all of the necessary amenities provided for, they need only lie down and relax.

A Russian couple that has suffered several miscarriages in the past has come to enlist Dr. Patel’s help. They say that surrogacy in India is not only reliable, but also much cheaper than in other places, where many infertile couples find the high prices prohibitive. In the US, for example, surrogacy is three times more expensive than in India.

Among the prospective surrogate mothers is a young woman who plans to buy a house with her husband and begin saving for their children’s education once she gives birth and receives payment. A woman who has already completed two surrogacies bought a house and helped her husband start a business with the money. Another veteran surrogate mom used the money to provide for herself and her children after her husband left her.

Surrogacy for profit certainly has its critics. Insults like “baby factory” are common. Some say that centres such as Dr. Patel’s exploit surrogate mothers, while pointing out that pregnancy always carries a health risk. Though most surrogacies are successful, miscarriages do occasionally occur and sometimes complications necessitate an abortion.

Nonetheless, Dr. Patel and others say surrogacy for profit is valuable for donor couples and the surrogate mothers alike. It certainly proves to be a life-changing experience for both.

Watch Wombs for Rent to learn more about this controversial practice on RTD Documentaries.