October 06, 2006

Foreign Issue

Picked up the October 2006 issue of Wired Magazine at an airport recently. It covers all things high tech, from the latest gizmos to how technology enhances our modern lives. I was not so much interested in the gaming section, but this tidbit on surrogate birthing, using "the uteri" of young women in India caught my eye.

Apparently, it’s just one tenth the cost of using a North American surrogate -- and unregulated. I wonder if they factored in the cost of the plane ticket? Not sure how many would be needed…I hear it's a long plane ride. My what lengths people will go to in order to become parents.

This brief mention appears under the sub-head "Wombs" on page 040 in their "Outsourcing" section really creeped me out. The very idea of procreation at all costs
(a bargain at $3,500 for the full term in India) makes my hairs stand on end. I have many questions about what seems like a Far East version of a Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood).

I am guessing at the mindset of the parents-to-be, but what is the mindset of these young women? Is it a selfless and perhaps profitable act on their part or a debase use of poor women’s bodies? What price do we pay as a global society if we use young women this way? When we don’t protect the young, the poor, the innocent – what does that make us?

Or, is it truly a win-win? Even the middle man wins in this case. Who takes what profit? How much does the surrogate get? How risky is this procedure for them? Are they compensated adequately? What is their average age? Where do they come from? How are they recruited? Whose brainchild is this anyway? Is this the dark underbelly of capitalism in the world’s largest democracy? So many questions.

New medical devices and procedures are not meant to be welcomed with open arms. We should questions them, put them up to the bright light of scrutiny, whether it is the newest form of birth control or the latest cure for infertility.
Beyond passing clinical trials with "marketable results, we must apply moral tests of the heart. Just because it’s legal somewhere, should we do it? Should we regulate it? The answers we come up with may differ. Let’s at least discuss it.

[Incidentally, in India when someone asks about family status, they say, “Any issue?”]

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alpahgirl said...

This is just my opinion, but infertility is not a disease to be cured..it exists in all species, humans included**gasp**

With 6.8 billion people in the world at last count, and nearly 220,000 births per day, the attitude of "birth at any cost" is egotistical at best and potentially destructive to our planet at worst. We only need to look at the recent record heat to understand that global warming is a reality, thought by some to be caused in part by the stripping of natural resources by humankind.

The exploitation of young overseas women in order to feed the current trend of "baby rabies" is no less exploitive than some of the other trades these young women find themselves in. Sure, they are in dire straights financially, but they need to be taught that their value is more than that of being a human incubator. This is a value that needs to be taught worldwide.

There is nothing positive in this trend...it's just expensive, rampant ego-feeding gone wild at the expense of under-informed, finanacially vulnerable women at the hands of wealthy, baby-hungry people. It harks of a scary return of the "breeding class" that existing in some societies earlier in history. Just plain scary.

Tiara Lynn said...

I feel the same about infertility as alphagirl, that infertility is nature's way of culling the herd.

I too saw this article in Wired and I found myself wondering how many clucky women would look at that and say "wow, is that cheap!!". It's unbelievable to me. What a sick, sick state of affairs we are in when wombs come for rent. A Handmaid's Tale indeed... my thoughts exactly.

Teri said...

AlphaGirl, Tiara Lynn - Your perspectives are difficult to get to if you never look beyond your own bubble. I feel that you both have presented a broader perspective, socially and globally.


Anne said...

I disagree with alphagirls and teris perspective on infertility (IF), but I guess that's because I am looking at it from within my 'bubble' of being infertile. But isn't the view of IF expressed in these comments from within a bubble also??

As for the exploiting young girls in India, or anywhere for that matter, just so that an IF couple can have a child, I think it's despicable!! I don't believe in 'birth at any cost', having carefully thought through my own treatment and adoption choices (and I know many other IF women who are very careful about their choices). This surrogacy program is exploitation at it's worst, placing these girls in a compromised position in their society - whatever method is used to impregnate them, they will always be viewed as 'spoiled women' and when they get older, past their 'used by date', their only options will be some other form of prostitution and slavery. And there is also the emotional and psycological stresses that they have to endure.

Please don't lump all IF couples into one catagory of baby crazed, 'child at any cost' freaks. I know many IF women who would not understand your choice to be childfree (because they are in the bubble of multiple losses and grief after years of trying), but there are some of us who respect your decisions and stand with you against the pressures of a society that demands we reproduce. So, please be respectful towards us.

IF is a medical condition like cancer, with a broad range of symptoms, causes and treatments. Of course, exploiting a child in India is not a viable treatment.

Teri said...

Anne - Welcome, and well said.

You are welcome to disagree and I respect your words. Thank you for sharing your voice, a first on this site, that of a self-identified infertile woman. What's intersting is that's how I started out, then I chose to be Purple. I could have chosen to be a parent by adoption, right?

In truth, I am not sure I agree (maybe it's more of a dislike of the term) with the "culling of the herd" theory. Perhaps it's nature's way to provide more parents for unwanted children?

I am glad you share a revultion to the thought of using young women from anywhere in this manner!

Anonymous said...

I'm confused, how is surrogacy "debasing their bodies"? Also, why does this qualify as exploitation? Compensation is given for every act of labor between strangers, no matter what the job. Is every act therefore exploitation? Which doctors and clinics are so wealthy that they give all their services for free and receive no funding? In which utopia do they exist? Doctors get paid, does this mean they are exploiting the ill?

Yes, I'm sure we can all think of fictional books and movies based so loosely upon reality that they scare us. But let's try sticking to reality. Above all, before you declare yourself a champion for these poor "exploited" women, try asking them their opinions, and if they as individuals choose to be a surrogate. Uneducated does not mean stupid, and they are capable of expressing themselves if you would only ask them.

Don't hide behind statistics of poverty, this is about people, try actually taking this issue up with the people involved on all sides.

Anonymous said...

Alphagirl, please spare us the paternalistic idea that we need to educate these poor people as to their own value. Please stop equating money with intelligence. Lacking one does not mean you lack th other. India is a very conservative country where family is highly valued, children are valued, and women are sterilized at their choice when they have enough children.

Many of these same "un-informed" women have children of their own and know what pregnancy and childbirth is about. Please don't think that because you were blessed enough to get an education and a decent paying job you are somehow more capable of understanding these surrogates issues than they are, or better able to make their own choices for them.

P.S., surrogacy has a financial component among US surrogates as well, who may be just as educated as you are. Let's not forget the financial incentive for Ivy league egg donors in the US. There is money involved in making a baby, beginning with doctors visits, as there is money involved in adoption, beginning with lawyers visits. It's flat out stupid to think that an enconomic componrnt equates to exploitation. Economics are fundamental reality of this world and everything we do from the US to India.

Anonymous said...

One more thing, to the poster who claimed that these women would become "prostitutes" or "slaves". That somehow surrogacy is something that not only should be looked down upon as demeaning but also is involuntary. Apparently you have done no research whatsoever. These women have families of their own, it is not their first child, and get the consent of their own families before they go forward. I don't know what it is in your nature that would equate having childrens with giving bj's in back alleys, or being treated as less than human. But there is something obviously skewed in your own thinking.

I think I throw up a little at the "culling the herd" sentiment in general. By such a standard we could look at the AIDS crisis around the world and shrug. We could look at genocides, and say nature has given the strong the means to destroy the weak. We could look at droughts and famine, starving people, orphaned children, and again say that's just nature. But we don't. Unless nature just happens to align with the cause you believe in.

Teri said...

Dear Anonymous - You are right, as bloggers, we do not generally take the time to research our posts, by design we really have to keep it short. So what are we doing? Reacting to things, sharing emotions, discussion, and hopefully keeping it civil.

I was hoping someone would shed some light on the questions I posed in the original post:

"...is it truly a win-win?
Who takes what profit?
How much does the surrogate get?
How risky is this procedure for them?
Are they compensated adequately?
What is their average age?
Where do they come from?
How are they recruited?"

Sounds like you are on this path or working in the infertility field given this comment:

"These women have families of their own, it is not their first child, and get the consent of their own families before they go forward."

If this is true, I am relieved. I wish you were more comfortable leaving us your credentials, or telling us your personal experience with the sj, so we would know this.

Obviously, we've struck a nerve here and it's okay to vent a little. We bloggers express emotions and make assumptions, and we do it rather anonymously. It goes with the territory. As owner of this site, I feel that dialogue is the most important thing, so I thank you for taking the time to leave three (I think) posts.

I will also pledge to do further research and publish them in a follow up post. Wired Magazine certainly got our fire started!

AlphaGirl said...

To the anonymous poster: I do not have a high-paying job, and am struggling to complete my college education.
I stand by original comments. I also have a lot of friends who are Indian, all of whom are highly educated, family-loving people. There is also an underside to India as there is in other contries: exploitation. In India, this takes place within the lower portion of the caste system; there is very little education, very little opportunity. Perhaps a viewing of "Born in a Brothel" might broaden you worldview a bit. many of these young women do not have the access to the education and family planning option that the women in the higher castes have. That was the point of my original post. Interesting that you posted anonymously.

And don't assume that all of us here are highly paid and educated. That is not always the case. We come across that way, though, because we choose to think things thru and take a more global perspective. But thanks for the assumption, anyway.