Outsourcing of goods is far from a new idea. What is new is the outsourcing of surrogate pregnancies, particularly to India. Outsourcing is a commercial venture that, for better or worse, cheapens the cost of products and increases jobs overseas. The same applies for outsourcing surrogacy: It cheapens human birth and degrades motherhood from a familial position to a lucrative business.
Most believers in outsourced surrogacy highlight the benefits for both sides: that of the family hoping for a child and for the woman carrying said child. American surrogacy is known for being exorbitantly priced with a long process to connect families with potential surrogates. The price and waiting time is cut considerably with Indian companies.
Essentially, Americans are doing what they do best: cutting corners and finding the cheapest option in the search for instant gratification. These traits aren’t necessarily bad in a business situation. Applying these demands to human birth, however, detracts from the value of a person being born. No longer is birth celebrated for bringing new life into a family, but as a successful business transaction with people as the product.
A July Forbes report on the growing trend found that most surrogate mothers earn between $5,000 and $7,000 per pregnancy, an amount that equals nearly ten years’ worth of income for most Indian women. These women hail largely from impoverished families. Surrogacy gives them the means not only to provide for their family but to aid another’s.
Putting a price tag on these women’s ability to create life is exploitative. Yes, the monetary benefit is undeniable, but what other choice do these women have? They have no other way to provide for their families, so they submit their body to nine months of being pulled and stretched, to go through the pain of childbirth for babies they may never see again.
Surrogacy itself provides couples with no means of having children a way to create a family. In no way is the gift of life provided by surrogate mothers a bad thing. The problem with Indian surrogacy is that the birth becomes a transaction, one in which the women carry babies to term and then lose all rights to the children they carried for the better part of a year.
In New York State, for example, surrogate mothers have the right to keep the baby they carry. In India, these women rescind all rights to the children they bring into the world. They are, in the practical sense, turned into baby factories.
The outsourcing of a service that can bring children to families detracts from the value of new life. Surrogacy itself is not the issue. Treating surrogacy as a business, exploiting women with no other choice and removing all rights of the birth mother transforms what could be a gift of family into a cold business transaction.