Cross-Border Surrogacy

March 29, 2017
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“Look at us, here! We are creating the world of tomorrow!” exclaims Mike. His words bounce off the walls of the high-tech fertility clinic we are in. Outside, the sun is slowly sinking into the smog of New Delhi’s skyline as the streets fill with commuters. The brutal socio-economic inequality between the haves and the have-nots of India’s economic miracle is laid bare in rush hour traffic. Shiny luxury cars, taking wealthy businessmen from high-rise offices to palatial homes stop at the traffic lights outside. Beggars approach them, knocking on tinted windows to plead for a fraction of that economic wonder, a share of the spoils of India’s integration into global neoliberal trade systems, so that they can feed their family for the day.

The traffic is a distant background noise in our meeting, where a handful of entrepreneurs from different parts of the world are building a business out of bringing together the inequality outside the clinic with the biotechnology inside it.

They are all in the business of transnational commercial surrogacy, where women are paid to carry and birth babies for foreign “intended parents”. Their clients are people who are, unfortunately, unable to have children themselves. Surrogacy’s underlying technology of IVF, where a baby is conceived in a petri dish, rather than in the womb, is impressive. But surrogate women to carry those pregnancies can be hard to find in many countries. This shortage, combined with high costs and regulatory restriction has given rise to the outsourcing of surrogacy to low-income countries like India.

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