Womb for Rent

An article in today’s news brings new meaning to offshore outsourcing.

In synopsis, clinics in India are providing full-service surrogate pregnancies to affluent Western women. The western parents-to-be get a bargain-priced baby, and the Indian surrogates make more money in a single pregnancy than they can make in a decade of hard manual labor.

According to the article, the Western parents-to-be are screened, and only those with evidence of medical problems impairing fertility are accepted as clients. Right. And – although I’ve never experienced the pain of infertility – whatever happened to playing the cards you were dealt?

And surrogate mothers are screened as well, they must be between 18 and 45, in good health, and have had at least one child. Once accepted, they live in the clinic, receiving constant medical observation, and their family is allowed to visit them. So, we’re creating a society where bearing another couple’s child rather than raising your own is a reasonable and acceptable bargain – if you’re poor enough?

This feels far closer to the dystopian future of Handmaid’s Tale than is comfortable for me. There is an an elite class of women whose wealth and circumstance confer upon them the opportunity to raise children – and an underclass of women whose poverty drives them to bear the medical risk and personal family consequences of giving birth to others’ children.

Who am I to tell these poor Indian women that they cannot rent out their wombs for more money than they can possibly make any other way? And for that matter, who am I to tell them that they cannot sell a kidney (they have a spare) nor a cornea (binocular vision isn’t essential)?

I’ll leave the ultimate question of right or wrong, good or bad, to those more versed in logical and ethical analysis. Personally, my gut reaction is that it’s wrong, wrong, wrong — classist, greedy, and oppressive.

7 Responses to “Womb for Rent”

  1. Nathan Says:

    Yeah. This gives me a queasy feeling, but I, too end up in the “Who am I to tell you what to do with your womb” camp. I’ll be more comfortable when we’ve got those mechanical wombs in the Honor Harrington books.

  2. Janiece Says:

    Jeri, I saw this on Oprah a while back, and it also makes me uncomfortable. The only redeeming feature I found was that the owner of the clinic ensured that the money earned by the women stayed with the women – usually by investing in property solely in the woman’s name. So at least they’re not screwed coming and going. “Classist” is the best descriptor I’ve heard.

    And Nathan – yeah. Uterine replicators. Hell, yes.

  3. Jeri Says:

    Nathan – Lois McMaster Bujold referenced them too, and talked a little about how they changed the marriage culture on a world unaccustomed to them. Good stuff! And that kind of outsourcing – I’m all in favor of.

    Janiece, that’s a plus – ensuring the money stays with the women, rather than getting taken by husbands or frittered away on stupid stuff. (Although the latter is probably their right too.)

    It occurs to me that I’m a bit preachy about this whole thing – since I’ve never struggled with inability to have a child nor had any experience with surrogate parenthood. But still, having strong opinions is a fine form of recreation.

  4. Janiece Says:

    Jeri, I understand. Infertility isn’t an issue I ever had – the one and only time I had sex with no form of birth control whatsoever I got pregnant with fraternal twins. Planned, thank goodness, althouth the twins part was a surprise.

    I feel empathy for infertile couples, but this solution seems a bit…classist.

  5. MWT Says:

    Hmmm. Seems we’re looking at the wrong part of the setup. I’m more inclined to worry about the circumstances that went into causing poor Indian women to be in a position to consider this as a reasonable option.

  6. Jim Wright Says:

    Nothing to add. I’m inclined the same as the rest of you – the women’s uterus is her business not mine, but yeah, the whole thing makes me uncomfortable.

  7. Steve Says:

    The typical uncomplicated pregnancy runs about $15,000 in total cost. Add to that the lost of time at work, maybe another $15,000. It is now cheaper to offshore your baby. What the F!@# has this world come to?
    I am so sick and tired of hearing Indian (not American Indian) voices every time I call for support. Now every time I get a head hunter call, it’s another damn Indian!
    There are too many Indian people involved in the US economy already. Now we will populate America with offshore babies from India? Anyone see the Today show this morning? Damn ugly people off shoring babies. Maybe there was a reason God didn’t let them get pregnant!
    Good thing I can not become president because I would dispose of all our old Nukes on India and China!!!!!
    When is the American public going to stand up and say we have had enough?