As if the questions raised by IVF and surrogate mothers weren’t knotty enough, new businesses in global surrogacy are adding a whole new layer of complexity.
Companies like one called PlanetHospital put together packages for couples who wish to become parents using donor eggs and/or donor sperm from one part of the world and a surrogate from another. They’ll find surrogates in India, egg donors in Europe, use sperm from wherever and make all the necessary arrangements. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, a US based surrogate can cost around $200,000 while an internationally assembled baby will run you from $32,000-$68,000, depending on the package.
The fertility industry in the US is entirely unregulated, and the regulations on surrogacy vary by country. Surrogacy was legalized in India in 2002, and since then the market has expanded rapidly. In Greece, surrogates who try to keep an infant can be prosecuted under the law. In other developing nations, surrogates have no rights to the child. For those considering surrogacy, it’s no wonder the international route is appealing.
In the Journal story, a Greek woman carrying a child for an Italian couple, a baby made from a European donor egg and an Italian woman’s husband’s sperm, will use the money she earns for the pregnancy to send one of her biological children to college. Women agree to be surrogates for all kinds of reasons, some having nothing to do with money. People choose surrogacy over adoption for many reasons as well, and the growing restrictions on international adoptions from China and Guatemala are also contributing to growth in this market.
And it’s not like surrogacy is new (see: the biblical story of Sarah, Hagar, and Abraham), but as the business develops and more people choose this option, regulation will be needed to protect the women and children involved from ending up in some kind of sci-fi nightmare it’s all too easy to imagine.
If the IVF vs Adoption debate is filled with emotion and complexity, this new business of making babies over borders adds myriad new questions, none of them with easy answers.
How do you prevent the exploitation of poor women? Potential parents pursuing surrogacy (or fertility treatments) aren’t vetted in any way (as they are when adopting), do we always believe in the good intentions of those who decide to have a child? International visas and passport restrictions mean babies can end up limbo but with divorce, multiples, the potential for a child with birth defects or an illness, the limbo created by national borders is the least problematic.
What do you think of surrogacy? Of international surrogacy and egg donors?