Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Surrogate Mother Services

In a land where life is cheap, renting a womb is an easy task for foreigners

•    From:The Times 
•    April 11, 2012 12:00A

A Spanish gay couple in New Delhi with their new twins born to a surrogate mother. Picture: AFP Source: AFP

They are reminders, if any were needed, of why the women are spending nine months away from husbands and prying neighbours, but under the watchful eye of a team of "counsellors".

Rihana Khan, 21, covers her face with her scarf as she explains the additional care she is taking with her second pregnancy. "The first time, with my own child, I didn't care at all what I was eating or about lifting weights. This time I am much, much more careful. There is a lot more at stake."
She is carrying twins on the last leg of a journey that began on the other side of the world: the clinic that has paid her to be a surrogate mother services an agency in Israel that helps gay men become fathers. Their sperm is sent to the US, where egg donors, usually white women from South Africa or Ukraine, are waiting. The resulting embryos are frozen and flown to India.
The hostel where Ms Khan is staying is one of three run by Wyzax Surrogacy Consultants, which at present houses 18 surrogate mothers, but sometimes has double that. To keep costs down, the company specialises in mass embryo transfers - 30 at a time. The bulk order also caters for an emerging trend for gay male couples who want two simultaneous surrogate pregnancies so both men can father a child.
The women were recruited from an "untapped area", said Jagatjeet Singh, the company's director. The "semi-rural area" (in fact, a slum) was chosen so that the company could "educate the women and their families in a clean slate", he said.
For Najma Khan, 31, the numbers add up. Her husband earns 10,000 rupees ($190) a month dealing in the waste plastic collected by rag-pickers.
She is not at all embarrassed by her decision. "I am doing this for the education of my own children, but I cannot tell them.

Research by the Delhi-based Centre for Social Research suggests high percentages of surrogate mothers are shunned by their families when they return. A survey carried out in Gujarat, traditionally the centre of the surrogacy trade, found fewer than 3 per cent had a copy of their contract. Although three-quarters say they want the cash to educate their own children, researchers found cases of coercion. "We came across women who told us the decision to become surrogates was not their own. They had to agree because their husbands wanted them to. The smile was missing from the faces of the women I met at the shelter homes," Manasi Mishra, the lead author of a report on the trade, said.

In an upmarket part of Delhi, Shivani Sachdev Gaur, the director of Surrogacy Centre of India, says she has never been busier. "I have 126 pregnancies right now. In April, couples from eight different countries will come here, from Ecuador to the UK. We get 300 inquiries a month - I see the acceptance going up.

"Today, for example, a court in Argentina has ruled that a single gay man who is a client of ours can be registered as the child's father."

Dr Gaur says India enjoys an advantage over other countries not just because of the cost, but also due to the lifestyle of the women. "Drug abuse, smoking and drinking alcohol among women is very rare."

She insists her clinic is careful to weed out would-be surrogates who might be coerced and that all recruits are put through stringent psychological as well as medical assessments.

On the whole, the parents make no stipulations about the woman who carries the baby. The exception is that some Hindu and Muslim clients ask for surrogates of their own religion. Most want to meet the woman who carried their child, if only fleetingly, after the babies are born - almost always by caesarean section.

"There's less risk to the babies that way and the intended parents can make sure they are there," Mr Singh said.

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