If given a chance, would you carry a stranger’s baby, just to see that smile on their faces when they hold their child in their arms, the moment they had once thought they would never be able to experience in their life?
For years, surrogacy has raised ethical and financial issues around the world: why women who opt for surrogacy do so, how well they are paid, and who the rightful owner of the child is.
There are millions of couples in the world who, because of reasons like infertility are unable to conceive a child. That is where surrogacy plays its part. Surrogacy is the process of carrying a child for the intended parents by another woman.
The surrogate mother is impregnated by the use of artificial methods of reproduction. There are two types of surrogacy, gestational, where the pregnancy results from the transfer of an embryo made through artificial methods like in vitro fertilization, and traditional surrogacy, where the child is genetically related to the surrogate, even though the means of impregnating her may be natural or artificial.
There are many reasons why a woman takes to surrogacy. While in altruistic surrogacy, the woman only takes up the cause for a noble purpose and to help childless couples, most women turn to commercial surrogacy for a means to earn. This is especially common in developing countries like India.
Surrogacy has raised issues in many instances. There are many cases where the surrogate mother is taken advantage of and exploited financially (in commercial surrogacy). Then there comes the issue of the rightful mother of the child. In many countries like the UK, commercial surrogacy is banned and the surrogate mother is considered to be the legal mother of the child. The biological parent(s) have to take custody of the child through adoption, which is a cumbersome process involving red-tapism. Thus, most couples avoid having a surrogacy in the UK.
In the USA, commercial surrogacy is permitted. However, it involves huge costs and there are many complications involved. For instance, at any time during the pregnancy, if the surrogate mother changes her mind and decides to take legal custody of the child, she is allowed to do so.
Also, the laws vary from state to state and there are many states where it is practically impossible to carry out a surrogacy. However, you can have a surrogacy in an ‘unfriendly’ state if the surrogate mother is from a ‘friendly’ state.
Since the legalization of surrogacy in India in 2002, many couples across the world have turned to India for surrogacy because of low costs and quality health care. However, the ban of surrogacy to foreign nationals in late 2015 left surrogate mothers in India at a disadvantage as many saw it as a major source of income as well as their chance to help a couple in need. Furthermore, as India is the cheapest country to carry out a surrogacy, the childless couples who viewed India as their only chance to carry out surrogacy would be left with no other options due to finances.
Apart from ethical and legal issues, there have been many religious issues involving surrogacy. The Bible does not oppose surrogacy but questions have been raised on whether it is ethical. In Judaism, it is believed that using another person as a means to motherhood is not correct, for motherhood is a natural process, equal to a gift. There are also questions about financial status. In Islam, surrogacy is looked down upon because impregnating a woman who is not one’s wife (as in traditional surrogacy) is equal to infidelity.
However, one cannot help but wonder: who are we, as humans, to decide that a woman cannot raise a child just because she cannot bear one? Motherhood is not born out of a womb but is a feeling which is inherent in many women. In most cases, the infertility of the parent(s) results from medical conditions which are outside human control. The only requirement for parenthood should be a willingness to raise a child and give him/her love, as opposed to the biological process of conceiving. Thus, surrogacy is but a method for people around the world to direct their love to a child.
Many a time, the surrogate mother also takes up the job not only for financial means but also activism. All over the world, women are sharing their stories of being surrogates and coming out in the open. It is an effort on the part of hundreds of women who do not have the means for monetary charity, but want to change lives.
There have been many instances where women who had problems in the initial phases of their efforts to conceive have taken to helping childless couples because who else would understand their problem better?
The criticism towards surrogacy for reasons citing exploitation of surrogates is understandable, but the ban on surrogacy is not the answer. Rather, what is needed is a clearly written down law governing surrogacy and basic legal rights to surrogates, as in foreign countries.
There have also been claims that many surrogates are brainwashed into carrying babies for other couples. The solution is awareness to the people, especially in areas like Gujarat and Mumbai where there are many cases of surrogacy, and to treat surrogacy as a serious topic and not taboo.
Over the last few years, surrogacy has entered our mainstream lives and actors like Nicole Kidman and Shah Rukh Khan choosing to conceive their babies through the process. With India at the threshold of social growth with increasing discussions about women’s rights, healthcare, sanitation, and family planning, why should surrogacy remain a taboo?
This article was first published on http://magazine.somethingdots.com/cradle-devoid-increasing-instances-surrogacy-india
You might also like: