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Outsourcing Motherhood

“Neither flesh of my flesh, nor bone of my bone, but still, miraculously my own.”

Yes, this is the magic of Outsourcing Motherhood but can we call it magic in true sense. It is a debate of our head and heart. Outsourcing’ and that too ‘Motherhood’! Doesn’t it impinge you? Former one is a buzz in business and the later, in our hearts. And to give it a respectable name we combine both the buzzes and call it “surrogacy”.

The term surrogacy generally refers to the practice of hiring a fertile woman who agrees to become impregnated, usually through donor insemination, and agrees ahead of time to transfer the child to the infant’s biological father and his wife, according to terms of a contract signed before the woman becomes pregnant. Some same-sex couples turn to surrogacy as an option to becoming parents.[1]

With no legitimate law in India for this, it has become a matter of great debate .It is presumably considered legitimate because no Indian law prohibits surrogacy. But then no law permits surrogacy either. In the absence of any law to govern surrogacy, the Indian Council of Medical Research guidelines (2005) for accreditation, supervision and regulations of ART clinics in India are often violated. Exploitation, extortion and ethical abuses in surrogacy trafficking are rampant and surrogate mothers are misused with impunity.

India’s surrogacy boom began in January 2004 with a grandmother delivering her daughter’s twins. The success spawned a virtual cottage industry in Gujarat. Today, India boasts of being the first to legalize commercial surrogacy soon to legitimize both intra-and inter-country surrogacy. Moreover, renting wombs has become an easy and cheap option in India. Relatively low cost of medical services, easy availability of surrogate wombs, abundant choices of donors with similar racial attributes and the lack of any law to regulate these practices is attracting both foreigners and NRIs to sperm banks and surrogate mothers. To overcome the problem the Draft Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill, 2010 was introduced in the Parliament. Whatever the intentions may be, its inevitable consequence would be the creation of a market specializing in the sale and purchase of babies. The only proper way to pursue the Bill would be to abandon it as is inconsistent with human dignity.

If we talk about the surrogacy laws in other nations, in Canada, surrogate mothersare not allowedto accept payment but unfortunately this has driven the practice underground. In Japan, it is the woman who delivers the baby, and not the woman who provides the eggs, who is considered the baby’s mother in a surrogate birth. In Australia not all states have laws on surrogacy but the ones that do areQueensland, where surrogacy is illegal, Tasmania where it is an offence to make or receive payment for surrogacy and contracts are not legally binding, and in South Australia and Victoria where surrogacy contracts are illegal. In South Africa, paying surrogate mothers is illegal.[2] Sure the renting of womb is illegal in almost all the developed countries of the World but if surrogacy is so gruesome then why these countries allow their citizens to import the product named “child” from India. The reason is quite obvious; they do not leave a single chance of exploiting the developing countries like India and we blindly tend to make laws for legalizing such filthy businesses without heeding to the vulnerable conditions of the citizens of the nation.

In India, the relationship between the child and mother has become commercial rather than emotional one. Now is that what women are made for, selling motherhood?  This is the biggest irony and the saddest part of the story. Motherhood is not about having the child for 9 months in the womb and then selling it for some bucks to the rich. It’s much more than that. It is not like donating a kidney. Bearing a child is an emotional issue. It is hard to force nine-month-pregnancy on any woman. Elizabeth Kane, the first commercial surrogate in the United States, now active in the National Coalition Against Surrogacy writes, “A woman (surrogate mother) feels like a flesh covered test tube during the entire experience. As the foetus grows, the woman is depersonalized; she becomes fragmented from the whole person – merely a vehicle for breeding babies.” “The surrogacy contract,” the Baby M court found, “is based on principles that are directly contrary to the objectives of our laws. It guarantees the separation of a child from its mother; it looks to adoption regardless of suitability; it totally ignores the child; it takes the child from the mother regardless of her wishes and maternal fitness.”[3]

Moreover, the emotional and health factors remain unanswered even after pronouncement of various judgments by the courts. The short term and long term effects of pregnancy are very long lists indeed. Short-term effects range from fatigue and vomiting to the swelling of joints and the long term effects range from scarring, varicose veins to lose skin and as for complications of pregnancy, they there are many. Some of these complications are life-threatening, like breast cancer. Poor women who rent out their womb do not care or even think about these things. And even if middle class women go for it, the motiveis money. They do this in a condition where they have nothing to mortgage but their womb. And that makes them vulnerable to exploitation. Despite this invisibility, and denial, birth mothers are mothers. They have names and faces, hearts and stories.  When birth is followed by the abrupt loss/separation from one’s child, a mother is plunged into the most difficult of human experiences- grief, loss, despair, shame, and failure. Now if it is not barbarous then what it is.

A poor country like India badly needs a law on surrogacy and it badly needs to make payments to surrogate mothers illegal. The combination of poverty, illiteracy and the lack of power that women have over their own lives in India is deadly. The modern science and law recognizes the man and his wife as the parents of the child but the surrogate mother is merely recognized as a labor who works for another person for wages. If surrogate motherhood becomes a legal ‘business’ then sooneducated working women will start hiring wombs to prevent a break in their career. To take an extreme scenario, baby ‘factories’ could spring up, a scene from a horror movie which fortunately will not see the light of day as most countries have realized the downside of surrogacy.

Some argue that the people who seeks surrogates, seems to do so for the reason that either they can’t bear children or they can’t bear the pain of pregnancy. But I wonder why the option of ‘Adoption’ is not considerable for them? Adults want and need children; children need and want adults. It’s a perfect match. There are many children who will never know love of parents in the orphanages but some couples choose unnatural way to have a baby using a surrogate. They want to be genetically linked to their child to be sure the child is exactly “theirs” continuation. Are they still living in the World of “ghar ka chirag” and “waris”?

People will have to realize that infertility is not a death sentence. Children are not products to be made. Our reproductive bodies are not to be blithely parceled and sold to someone else. And pregnancy is not a chore to be outsourced. It’s time for some more serious corrective thinking. Neither the birthmother nor the child would get due respect and recognition in the society as they will be ousted at every step of their life. They will be pining for leading a normal life and the child will grow up asking every moment that

You say that you gave me everything and I should be grateful

But I am the product that was sold

You say that you wanted me so much that you bought me

But I am the product that was sold.

I am the product that was sold.

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