Choice or Pressure? Surrogacy goes International

The decision to have a baby or not is a very important one in most people’s lives. Unfortunately, there are many limits to that decision. In cases in which someone wants a child very badly but unable to conceive one, surrogacy might be a solution.

We think that everyone can relate to a situation in his/her life, where an important decision has been rethought and abruptly altered to the opposite. Surrogacy is such a topic where one can not easily form an opinion. With increased chances of having a surrogate baby the  discourse on this topic is more relevant now than ever. Often, the arguments for or against surrogacy are based on different perspectives. Someone might be for surrogacy due to economic reasons, whilst the opposing argument against surrogacy is ethically/morally based.

The video ‚Google Baby‘ is a journey around the continents and deals with surrogacy and the production of babies. It is about an Israeli entrepreneur, Doron,  who wants to build a business with surrogacy. He and his boyfriend already have a surrogate baby from America. When they introduced their new baby girl to their friends, Doron realised that there is a huge demand for surrogate children. But since the surrogates in America are too expensive for their friends, Doron starts his own company for the production of babies. The clients can choose their preferred egg or sperm donor from the US based physical appareance and education. Afterwards, the embryos are created, frozen and ready to be transported. In the end Doron ships the embryos to India  where they are implanted into the surrogates. Through globalisation Doron is making surrogacy affordable for more couples.

Another video on surrogacy in India takes a different perspective. It has been filmed before 2015. At that time, there was no law about surrogacy. The topic is more about the human aspect of surrogacy. The main question in the debate surrounds the concern on who benefits most from surrogacy: the surrogate mother, the parents or the middle man?

  • To the surrogate mother, is it really a choice or just a pressure of society? Can we still talk about a choice, when the leading decision is lead by poverty? Is poverty always the reason?
  • To the parents, what are their motivations to ask for a surrogate mother? Is surrogacy only due to gay couple or infertile couple or are there some other kinds of customer in that market.
  • And finally the middle man is the person that makes the connection between the surrogate mother and the parents. As there is no law, do they really respect the basic rights of the surrogate mothers and the parents?

Answers to these questions are searched during the debate, leaving many of them still open. The video conveys that the popularity of surrogacy asks for more regulation and clearer laws in order to hinder unfair outcomes.

Let’s go away from India and look at surrogacy in Europe. Greece has been a very popular destination for couples all over the world to have their surrogate child. It is legal here, but only if it is an altruistic act (non-profitable). Similarly to India, the regulations are weak and laws are fuzzy. Despite Greece having several prolific surrogacy clinics, to be exact 60, the procedure is rather taboo in society. A surrogacy mother is viewed as a prostitute as she offers her bodily services. As a result, the majority of these mothers come from Bulgaria and Balkan countries that immigrate to Greece with the hope of finding a better life. An agency between the child-wanting couples and the surrogate mothers is also prohibited in Greece and done illegally. It is almost impossible to find a surrogate mother without such an agency, forcing the couples to get in touch with one of these prohibited intermediate persons. The danger here is that these eastern women are not truly protected by law and if not addressed properly, it may result in human trafficking.

Surprisingly, regulations concerning surrogate women are weak in both Greece and India. The laws are more focused on who should be allowed to have a surrogate child, narrowing the list to only heterosexual couples that cannot have children. Also in both countries the decision to enter into this business as a woman is led by poverty. This does not necessarily have to be negative; she helps a childless couple to have a child while the couple helps her have a better future. The main concern lies in the way the they are being paid. Rarely they receive the major cut for their service, making the business truly profitable for the clinics and agencies. As a result, surrogacy has been commodified. What started as an altruistic act, helping those in need in a community, has become a big and flourishing international business.

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