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commercial surrogacy tourism

Tourists flocking to India to hire surrogate mothers

Rosemary Black  Jun 08, 2010

Foreign tourists visit India by the hundreds each year to hire surrogate moms to carry their babies for them.

It's a bargain for the would-be parents, costing them around $23,000, or about one fifth of the going rate here in the U.S., according to Time. The surrogate mom typically gets about $7,500 – paid in installments.

Now, though, the booming rent-a-womb industry in India, which has become the international capital of outsourced pregnancies, will soon be subject to new restrictions that will make it harder for foreigners to hire a surrogate.

India legalized commercial surrogacy in 2002 as a way to promote medical tourism, which experts say could generate $2.3 billion each year by 2012.

But the system has its complications, as exemplified by twin toddlers Nikolas and Leonard Balaz, whose parents are German nationals and whose surrogate mom is a twentysomething Indian woman from Gujarat. The boys were refused German passports since the country doesn't recognize surrogacy as an above-board means of parenthood. And citizenship is not conferred by India on kids who were conceived by foreigners and born to Indian surrogates, Time reports. Eventually, Germany handed over the twins' travel visas, but it was a lengthy legal battle and pointed out the need for legislation to establish regulations for the surrogacy industry.

Under consideration is a draft bill that would beef up surrogacy guidelines written by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), which have often been ignored by the several hundred Indian fertility clinics that tend to write their own regulations.

One such clinic is the Akanksha Infertility Clinic in Gujarat, where the Balazes had gone to do business. "We are lost when there are no laws," Akanksha medical director Dr. Nayna Patel said, according to Time. "But the people drafting the bill have to remember to take care of the clinics, too."

Patel chooses at least three women a day who visit the clinic, pairing the surrogates with couples unable to conceive and overseeing negotiations between surrogate and tourist.

Under consideration now is a government bill banning IVF clinics from arranging surrogacy transactions, and calling for the establishment of an "ART bank" that would locate surrogate moms and reproductive donors. Only on the operating table would the fertility clinic have contact with the surrogate.

While some in the medical community may not like the new legislation, it may mean a better life for India's surrogate moms, who could have more freedom in negotiating their fees and getting health insurance from the couple or single who has hired them to carry a baby. The new law would only permit a woman to be a surrogate up to five times and would set a 35-year age limit. This is to ensure that Indian women desperate to be surrogates can't put themselves at risk.

And the new law will stipulate that the foreign couple's home country would guarantee citizenship for the unborn infant. This may not go over too well in Germany.

"In fact, I'm not sure if any country will be ready to pledge citizenship before birth," prominent Mumbai surrogacy lawyer Amit Karkhanis told Time. Usually, countries that accept surrogate-born babies want post-delivery DNA tests to determine the baby's parentage.

Tourists flocking to India to hire surrogate mothers
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