Survey of Indian surrogacy reveals shocking abuses

A survey of surrogate mothers and commissioning parents in India deepens suspicions that the US$2 billion industry is deeply exploitative. The Center for Social Research, a lobby group for women's rights, interviewed 100 mothers and 50 commissioning parents in Mumbai and New Delhi. While the findings may not be completely scientific, they do suggest that some of the practices of the clinics would be completely unacceptable in the countries where their clients come from. The report, "Surrogacy Motherhood: ethical or commercial?", has been supported by the ministry of women and child development.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Contracts between the women and the parents (not the clinics) are normally signed in the second trimester, after the pregnancy has been confirmed. But most mothers did not have a copy of their contract and were not aware of its contents. "The freedom of the surrogate mother is an illusion," says the report.
  • If a baby had an abnormality or was the wrong sex, it was often chemically aborted, often without the surrogate mother's consent or knowledge. According to the report, "There have been instances where the contracting individual has specified the sex of the baby, refused to take the baby if it was not born normal and filed a suit against the surrogate saying she had broken the contract."
  • Normally the mothers are paid only 1% or 2% of the fees charged by the clinic. If the pregnancy are aborted or if the parents refuse to accept the child, mothers are paid only half the fee. Some women are not paid anything.
  • The fate of children with birth defects is unclear. Only 6% of commissioning parents in New Delhi and 26% in Mumbai said that they would take the baby.  
  • An increasing trend is using more than one surrogate mother. Commissioning parents look upon it as a more economical option, since the clinics offer 2-mothers-for-1-guaranteed-pregnancy discounts.
  • Most of the women stayed in "shelter homes" during the pregnancy to avoid the stigma of being a surrogate and to avoid being infected with STDs during the pregnancy.
  • The report contains some disturbing anecdotes, even if they are not sufficiently documented. In one case, "a shocking case of surrogacy was unearthed in the Bombay International Airport, where a foreigner couple went for surrogacy in India only for organ transplant for their sick child in their country."
  • Most of the commissioning parents are Indians living in Western countries where surrogacy is illegal.
  • The report recommends a clear legal framework for surrogacy in India and more respect for the surrogate mothers. 

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