The ink is barely dry on news that the government of India does not support commercial surrogacy, especially for foreigners coming to India to buy a baby, and the fear mongering has already begun. The Spin Doctor—who by the way is not a doctor, but a reproductive law attorney—sounds the alarm writing, “With India’s Reproductive Tourism Industry Closed, Patients Now Perilously Considering Cambodia!” He warns, “desperate patients” will turn to Cambodia at their own “peril.” How can this be anything but fear mongering?

Reproductive tourism? – Yes!
Industry? – Yes!
Money interests? – Yes!
Exploitation of women and children? – Yes!

Families Thru Surrogacy issues this warning (yes, in all caps, just like this):

WARNING: IN THE WAKE OF LAWS BEING INTRODUCED IN NEPAL AND THAILAND BANNING SURROGACY FOR FOREIGNERS, CAMBODIA IS ALSO CONSIDERED “HIGH-RISK” OF SUCH A SCENARIO. INTENDED PARENTS ARE URGED NOT TO ENGAGE IN SURROGACY IN CAMBODIA IN THE ABSCENCE OF LAWS PROTECTING SURROGATES AND INTENDED PARENTS.

Slightly less hysterical is the response issued to U.S. citizens by the State Department “Ministry of Health Limits New Foreigner Surrogacy Cases:”

On October 27, the Indian Ministry of Health requested that surrogacy clinics perform no further services for foreigners. This is consistent with draft, unpassed, legislation before the Indian parliament which states in part: “Surrogacy for foreigners in India shall not be allowed but surrogacy shall be permissible to Overseas Citizen of India (OCIs), People of Indian Origin (PIOs), Non Resident Indians (NRIs) and foreigner married to an Indian citizen.

While we are not aware of present law prohibiting surrogacy for foreigners, intending parents should be cautious when pursuing surrogacy services in India. We do not have further information about the Ministry of Health request at this time. Intending parents may contact the Indian Ministry of Health, the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs, or legal counsel with further questions or concerns.

I, however, applaud what the government of India is poised to do—that is, shut down the billions of dollar per year baby making (baby selling), women exploiting market in India. It has become what many predicted it would be come—a baby industry, fueled by money on the backs of low income and poor women. In fact, even women in India are calling for commercial surrogacy markets to be closed.

The State Commission for Women (SCW) is calling for a new Act to oppose the commercialization of women’s wombs in their country. This new Act emphasizes that commercial surrogacy violates the basic human rights of women and demands a stop to “treating a woman’s womb as a commodity.”

Here in the United States, Dr. Phyllis Chesler, author, feminist leader, and original signer of the Stop Surrogacy Now petition, told me:

In 1988, I predicted that we would soon see women in India chained to brothel walls gestating babies for Caucasians and Asians—and it has all come to pass. Sex-trafficking pimps who control captive women would logically make common cause with surrogacy pimps to profit from new markets. And why India? Because even when the birthmother’s eggs are necessary (and this is not always the case) then the child will not have “African” features, something that is less preferred by Caucasian and possibly Asian adoptive mothers and sperm donors [intended parents]. The racism involved…is [yet] another story.

Is this change in India enough? No, but it is certainly a move in the right direction. Shutting down the baby selling market protects the dignity of women and children.

Image by hang-in-there via flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Author Profile

Jennifer Lahl, CBC President
Jennifer Lahl, CBC President
Jennifer Lahl is founder and president of The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network. Lahl couples her 25 years of experience as a pediatric critical care nurse, a hospital administrator, and a senior-level nursing manager with a deep passion to speak for those who have no voice. Lahl’s writings have appeared in various publications including Cambridge University Press, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Dallas Morning News, and the American Journal of Bioethics. As a field expert, she is routinely interviewed on radio and television including ABC, CBS, PBS, and NPR. She is also called upon to speak alongside lawmakers and members of the scientific community, even being invited to speak to members of the European Parliament in Brussels to address issues of egg trafficking; she has three times addressed the United Nations during the Commission on the Status of Women on egg and womb trafficking.