Ethics of Indian Surrogate Mothers
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As one of the world’s leading outsourcing destinations, India has currently capitalized on among other things, its international surrogacy business. The business majorly serves foreign couples coming into India to seek for surrogate mothers. Surrogacy business flourishes in India because of three major reasons (Connell, 2011). First, most of these visitors prefer India because it offers surrogacy at a relatively affordable cost. It is argued that the lower cost is largely because of the increasing number of English-speaking Indians and the advancement in medical technology in the country. Second, India has loose legal restrictions which to a larger extent work to protect the rights of couples and not the surrogate mother (Connell, 2011).
Finally, there is also an increase in the number of mothers registering in surrogacy business due to the high rates of compensation (Connell, 2011). However, there is still a debate concerning the bioethical implications surrounding the industry. The controversy is whether commercial surrogate motherhood is a form of oppression or an opportunity. It is still a common belief among many Indians that commercial surrogacy has mutual benefits that can change lives (Connell, 2011).
Pros of Surrogacy in India
Surrogacy as a Solution to Infertility
Surrogacy has been a solution to most couples who disparately want a baby and face the issue of the woman not being able to carry the child. Through surrogacy most of the initially threatened marriage relationships have been revived (Rae, 2009). Surrogacy has provided such families with the best chance to carry on their own bloodline. This is possible because it enables the infertile parents to produce their own biological child. The parents use their own egg and sperm. Surrogacy also eases the conception process of women with difficulty in producing eggs or those who have lost their uterus to cancer (Rae, 2009).
Surrogacy and relationships/bonding
Studies have shown that surrogacy can be an instrument of tremendous bonding. This is especially so in cases where a friend or a family member offers a free surrogacy. Most surrogates also believe that surrogacy is an opportunity for them to show care and love for the unfortunate members of the society. They believe that it is the most extra ordinary gift a woman can ever give. Surrogacy allows for strong emotional bonds to form, making the infertile parents feel less alone in their infertility struggles. The practice has also answered the prayers of those interested in same sex parenting (Mason, 2010).
Indian Surrogacy and Cost
The major reason why Indian surrogacy is appealing to many couples is because of its lower cost compared to that of other countries. The cost of surrogacy in the U.S, for example, adds up to around U.S. $70,000. In India, it is offered at a lower cost with couples paying as low as $10,000 to 15,000 and sometimes even less (Maher, 2010). These low prices make the Indian surrogacy affordable by middle class Americans who influx the country. A part from benefiting the surrogate mothers, commercial surrogacy has become a major boost to the Indian economy contributing nearly $US6 billion annually (Maher, 2010).
Surrogacy as an alternative source of employment
Indian women from across the country are increasingly registering in surrogacy because of the tempting salary. To these poor mothers, surrogacy is understood simply as “agreeing to carry and deliver a baby” and to them, this can not be compared with the financial reward from the whole process. Several Indian women have build new houses, settled huge debts, while others have also heavily invested in the children’s future using their pay from surrogacy (Maher, 2010). Studies have shown that the six thousand dollars paid for just one successful pregnancy is equivalent to 15 years’ wages for some of these women. Surrogacy has therefore provided an easier way of escaping from poverty for these women and their families (Maher, 2010).
Safety and Surrogacy
Even though India is one of the countries with the highest maternal mortality, the surrogate mothers’ safety has been greatly improved. Most clinics screen the profiles of prospective surrogate mothers for potential birth related complications or mental instability (Rae, 2009). The practice has also addressed the issue of the surrogate mothers’ attachment to the babies by emphasizing on the use of eggs from a spouse or donor to create the embryo. This ensures that the babies being carried are not biologically related to the surrogate mothers and thus reduces the psychological impact on them (Rae, 2009). The clinics also offer counseling and a close medical monitoring throughout the pregnancy and childbirth. This has reduced the emotional issues related to pregnancy and childbirth. The surrogate women are also fully informed of the risks of the procedure (Rae, 2009).
Surrogacy and the Child’s Welfare
The fears about the impact of surrogacy on the well being of children and families have been proved unfounded. Studies have shown that instead, the mothers of children born through surrogacy arrangement show more warmth towards their babies and are more emotionally involved than in the case of families where the child is conceived naturally (Mason, 2010). The studies revealed that both the mother and the father have better parenting skills than do the parents in non-surrogate families. At the same time the babies themselves have also shown no difference in their temperament and behavior compared with the non-surrogate babies (Mason, 2010).
Surrogacy and legal issues
Unlike the controversy witnessed in some countries, in India, it is clear that the surrogate mother cannot keep the child. Even in circumstances that the contract is not clear, the Indian women are clear that their main interest is the financial benefit from the whole process and not the child. The Indian law also prevents a surrogate mother’s name from appearing on the birth certificate and denies her the right to keep the child. Such legal issues are well handled by a team consisting of an attorney versed in laws on surrogacy (Rae, 2009).
The Cons of Surrogacy in India
Even though it is believed that the self-regulation of fertility clinics has resulted in more than adequate care for surrogate mothers, the future may be compromising. As the supply of fertility clinics increases to meet demand, the incentives to undercut competition in India may lead to unscrupulous treatment centers. This might compromise the well being of both the surrogate mothers and the children (Rae, 2009).
According to Dr. Arthur, the surrogacy contracts are usually written to protect the wealthy people who are commissioning the baby (Mason, 2010). It fails to address situations in which the woman may suffer an injury, develop a health problem due to childbirth, or cases of a long-term chronic condition. Certain experts have also criticized the practice of implanting many embryos into the surrogate mother with the aim of enhancing the chances of pregnancy. They argue that this is done simply to save the wealthy couples the expenses of having to travel back to India. The surrogate mothers also risk not being paid if the pregnancy does not go to full term or the child does not live (Mason, 2010).
A concern has also been raised over where the evolution of surrogacy might lead to. It may go beyond helping infertile couples to being a way for mothers who could carry a child to opt not to. This is already being practiced in many countries with women avoiding the normal pregnancy process. With the future advancement in genetic knowledge, surrogacy could be involved in fertile couples wanting to make what they think is the “perfect child with perfect traits” (Mason, 2010).
The surrogate mothers have to move far away from her family for the entire period of pregnancy. This comes with such problems as language barrier and culture shocks. It may also be a frightening experience to live in the third world clinics where such issues as congestion in operating theatres still remain unresolved. Most of these clinics also lack neonatal intensive care facility close by for the baby after the birth. The situation in India is also different from that of the developed countries where couples are normally concerned about the medical safety of their pregnant surrogate mother and their unborn child (Rae, 2009).
Surrogate mothers also suffer psychologically from giving birth to a child whom they will immediately be separated from. This whole process is seen as a western culture making some village residents to always want to disapprove any surrogacy pregnancy. The issue has caused divisions in most families and villages in India (Rae, 2009).
As much as this practice has its advantages, there is need for a law that adequately addresses regulation of fertility industry in this country. The current law is inadequate and guided by only a non binding suggestion from a medical research council. It to a larger extent works to protect the interest of the wealthy couples while leaving the life of the surrogate mothers and the children at risk. Such regulations should also be clear on who is allowed to seek the intervention of surrogate mothers to avoid the possibility of fertile women doing the same.
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