Surrogacy: the new trend in reproductive tourism

February 14, 2011 by  

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Surrogacy, something which was quite taboo just a few years ago, has become quite acceptable, even mainstream. This may be partly due to the publicity that celebrities like Rick Martin to Elton John, Sarah Jessica Parker and Nicole Kidman generated.

But for each surrogacy case, there are 2 sides to the coin: the “gestational carrier” (a term out of Kidman’s mouth) and the would-be parents. Although these roles are rather easy to define, the terms “biological parents”, “genetic parents” and “adoptive parents” are sometimes needed to clarify the issues. However, confusion remains so that there is need for us to look at the terminologies.

According to uk:

Traditional (straight) surrogacy – “the surrogate uses her own egg fertilised with the intended father’s sperm. This is done by artificial insemination…”

Gestation (Host IVF) surrogacy – “the surrogate carries the intended parent’s genetic child conceived through IVF…”

In many countries, surrogacy is legal. In some, it is not. It is a well-known fact that surrogacy is a big business in India and some countries in eastern Europe and South America where surrogacy laws are very lax if at all existent.

During the recent economic crisis, there was a recent surge in the number of women in the US who were willing to sell their eggs or serve as surrogates in return for a fee. Although the money involved is not well-publicized, it can range from as little as $3000 in India to $20,000 in the US. In many cases, the women had a valid reason for going into surrogacy – money for a loved one’s treatment, children’s education, etc.

Recently, Guatemala hit the headlines as a strong completion to India when it comes to “reproductive tourism.” Unfortunately, the laws in Guatemala are not ready for this rapidly increasing market. According to Karen Smith Rotabi, Assistant Professor of Social Work at Virginia Commonwealth University:

“Those developing surrogacy services in this desperately poor nation should take caution as they pioneer in this area of global fertility practice. As a business model, they are stepping into a grey area of human rights which will challenge us all to consider what is right and wrong and how far to take the privilege of purchasing power. Developing an expanded or more precise definition of human trafficking and a new area of regulatory control will become important considerations in this next wave of the global baby business.”

This and the highly publicized surrogacy cases of celebrities triggered heated debates on the ethics and legalities of surrogacy.

Here are some issues to ponder on:

  • Is surrogacy about renting wombs or helping infertile couples?
  • If surrogacy, which is illegal in many western European countries, is done in a country where it is legal, tantamount to a crime when the parents bring the baby home?
  • Does the baby have the right for its parent’s nationality even though it has been conceived and delivered through surrogacy, which may have been legal in its country of birth but not in its home country?
  • How do countries define the difference between surrogacy and intercountry adoption?

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