They come from lands as far as America,Canada,the UK, Australia, Israel and Singapore. There are many who are from India too, all with a dream to fulfill a desire of having their own baby.
Surrogacy in India has become a thriving, multi-billion dollar business with many impoverished and extremely poor families resorting to it by way to supplement their families and to safeguard for a better future for their children.Thanks to the rich westerners flocking our land, the business of "renting-a-womb" has now become a $2bn plus industry and is only growing.
The reason, more and more western families are choosing India to deliver babies through surrogate mothers, is reasonably clear to understand. Firstly,there are fewer legal hassles involved.All the surrogate mother has to do is sign a "contract" with the childless/commissioning parents and a particular amount of money is fixed to be paid on completion of the "contract".
Once it is signed, the surrogate mother is left with limited choices. With no stipulated law or guidelines mentioned regarding any breach or violation of the "contract", the surrogate mother, is usually left at the mercy of the doctors or the commissioning parents, and is often left open for abuse.
Secondly,the cost of surrogacy and hiring a surrogate mother is much cheaper in India than in most of the other countries. Here the approximate cost is almost five times cheaper than in US or the UK.
Hence with cheaper costs,unregulated checks and easy availability of surrogate mothers, India has become the hotbed of surrogacy and it is only poised to grow more.
With the business fast becoming an industry, we need to look at the appalling condition of the surrogate mothers, who sometimes forget that the stakes involved are much higher.
Take the recent case of Premila Vaghela, a poor 30-year-old surrogate mother, who died in the eighth month of her pregnancy due to unexplained complications.
Premila had come to her IVF clinic in Ahmedabad,Gujarat for a routine check-up. While waiting for her turn, she developed fatal convulsions and collapsed on the floor. The doctors at the clinic, immediately performed an emergency caesarean on her and managed to save the baby. But Premila did not survive.
Citing it as "the price paid for surrogacy", the matter was quickly brushed under the carpet and given very little media attention.
The fate of Premila is a stark reminder that death is one of the hazards of being a surrogate mother in India.
Surrogacy has mushroomed all over India, especially in Gujarat, where the commissioning parents and the doctors are more interested in the end product- the child, while the life of the surrogate is considered secondary. In the case of Mrs. Vaghela, a section of her "contract" mentioned that the surrogate mother and her husband agree that " If she is seriously injured or suffers a life threatening instance during her third trimester of pregnancy, then she, " will be sustained with life support equipment to protect the fetus' viability and insure a healthy birth on the genetic parent's behalf."
Premila, had opted for surrogacy to provide for her own two children and to sustain a livelihood.
There are many more like Premila, whose deaths go unchecked, each year.
What is disconcerting to know that many malpractices abound this field where death or subsequent ill health of a surrogate mother is caused by methods used, which are otherwise banned in other parts of the world.
Implantation of more than four embryos in the surrogate's womb, the invasive " fetal reduction "surgery and adjusting the time of birth of the baby, through multiple in-vitro fertilization sessions, sometimes as many as 20-25 times,to coincide with the arrival of the commissioning parents, have resulted in further degradation of health and sometimes death of the mother.
While some surrogates have been fortunate to gain from the business of renting their womb, there are others who have suffered gravely.
For instance, it has been reported that, the husbands and children, have been found to distance themselves from the mother, after she returns home, following the birth of a baby.
Around 14% women in Surat and 20% in Jamnagar said their relationship with their husbands soured post the delivery of child. Many have revealed- around 100 % in Jamnagar and 83 % in Surat, that friends and family members have severed their contacts with them, after they opted for surrogacy.
To make matters worse, along with the health and psychological issues, the surrogate mothers often end up with only a paltry sum of amount after the childbirth as the amount of money paid by the commissioning parents is arbitrarily fixed by the clinic or the doctor.
What results is a tumultuous battle between the commissioning parents and the surrogate,with the latter often at the receiving end of all this.
This secretive yet largely unregulated business,has managed to bring more harm than good to these poor women.
Hence the need of the hour is a stringent law. We need a law to safeguard the interest of the surrogate mother and protect her health.
As the business has turned into a global industry, we need both the Indian government and the Western governments' attention regarding this issue.
We cannot afford to let this business thrive, without a proper legislation.
Surrogate motherhood has its positive and negative factors. What we should keep in mind that both the parties should be at gain, preventing any form of exploitation. Special attention should be taken to provide equal nurture and care to the mother too.
Take action! This post was submitted in response to Ending Gender-Based Violence 2012.