Surrogacy is definitely a miracle, where a couple who is unable to have a baby is able to get the joys of parenthood because someone else is carrying the baby for them in her womb. In fact with most couples, after years of trying to conceive, and undergoing harrowing treatment, surrogacy appears like a light at the end of a long dark tunnel.
What is on the rise today is that many Caucasian parents, unable to have their own child, are looking for surrogates outside their own community. In fact, many American intending parents are increasingly looking for surrogate mothers in India – women who are mostly under the poverty line, medically fit to carry and give birth to children, and needing the financial benefit that surrogacy offers them.
But is it really as rosy a journey for them as it is for the parents-to be?
The Truth about Surrogacy in India
The situation of Indian women serving as surrogates for Caucasian parents – sometimes without ever meeting the parents whose baby they are carrying – is referred to as ‘reproductive tourism’.
These women, as mentioned earlier, usually come from small communities, for whom this becomes a mode of earning some meager sum of money to support their families. On the other hand, they are the ones who take the pains to complete the family of a well-placed couple.
By outsourcing even this integral part of their lives to India, the entire process becomes a lot more affordable for Western parents. But the other side of the coin is what can be seen if you ever visit any of these back-ward communities in India. In most cases the women live in dilapidated conditions, and are held responsible for a safe full term pregnancy. Once the baby is born, she must hand the baby over. Yet, when it comes to getting paid, in most cases she’ll get paid a very small fraction of the roughly $12,000 that the intending parents spend in the process. In addition, while she is pregnant, does she really get properly looked after; is she provided with proper nutrition and healthcare services? Chances are no…
While the intended parents sit comfortably in their air-conditioned offices and living rooms, unaware of what is actually happening, the hardships these surrogates are subject to is just another instance of the gross exploitation of the helplessness of the “third-world”!
But while that is the ground reality, the scenario is slowly changing…
Surrogacy in Anand, Gujarat
In a little dairy community in Gujarat, India – Anand – the efforts of a single woman, Dr. Nayna Patel, is gradually transforming the scenario.
Dr. Patel runs the Akansha Fertility clinic in Anand. Here western couples having fertility problems come for treatment, or to be precise, to meet and work out arrangements with Indian surrogates. These women, like Indian women pan-subcontinent, carry the babies of these western couples. But unlike the rest of the sub-continent, once a woman enters into the surrogacy contract, Dr. Patel takes it on herself to care for these women.
Some of the points which Dr. Patel raises about the majority of unfortunate Indian surrogates are:
- Are they getting proper care in their poor homes where they live with multiple children of their own, and other family members – and all under the cloud of poverty?
- Since most of these women go out to work, either as maids or daily laborers, is it possible for them to discontinue these errands when they are pregnant? And since the ground reality is that they can’t, doesn’t that endanger their lives as well as the pregnancy?
- Do these women get proper nutrition, especially when throughout the pregnancy there is no real augmentation to their meager income?
When answers to these questions are sought, the picture that emerges is a sordid one. And Dr. Patel chose to do something about it, instead of remaining an impassive observer.
She set up the Akansha clinic where these surrogates from Anand are given a place to stay. Oftentimes if they have very small children of their own, these children are also accommodated here.
They live in houses near the actual clinic so that they can be given assistance and care at short notice. These women get proper nutrition and the responsibility of regular medical check-ups is taken on by the clinic. And while they stay there, they are constantly under the care of either a former surrogate with proper knowledge, or a nurse/midwife able to care for them in the appropriate manner.
In addition, since the surrogates live communally in the same house, they get a chance to form life-long friendships and are also provided with a positive and happy atmosphere while they are carrying the baby.
Finally, looking at the financial concerns, their medical bills are paid by the parents-to-be, and they get the complete fee that is decided upon. The clinic takes no part of it. With the help of this money – which is a considerable sum for these simple poor women – they can do a lot – pay for their children’s higher education, or to build a house of their own…
A Final Word
Dr. Patel is playing the role of a reformer in these women’s lives by giving them an opportunity to use the intrinsic ability they have, to better their situation in society!
While it may not be in the hands of the intended parents always, when you go for surrogacy and want to get an Indian surrogate, seek for agencies which ensure the same kind of care and nurturing of the surrogate who carries your precious bundle of joy.
On the other hand, individuals wishing to help these downtrodden women to truly come out of their misery can follow Dr. Patel’s model and set up more such philanthropic initiatives through which the face of surrogacy in India can truly transform!