02 January 2008

Indian wombs for rent

Considering India is well-known for being the mecca of American and Australian call-centres, it perhaps comes as no surprise that young Indian women are similarly outsourcing their wombs as they would their voices for wealthy, but infertile, American and European couples.

In Anand, a city in Gujarat famous for its milk, 15 young mothers live and together harmoniously as incubators for their paying customers. Commercial surrogacy is a thriving industry in India for women who want to help their own families and have a healthy body that can carry a pregnancy to term. The women of Anand are implanted with the in-vitro eggs and sperm from the infertile couples and carry the pregnancy to term, looked after by a staff of doctors, cooks and maids.

Critics of this new method of surrogacy are vocal in their dismay at hiring out poor women in developing countries to carry the risks of pregnancy and birth in countries where maternal mortality rates are alarmingly high. Moreover, in outsourcing pregnancy at 'cut-rate' prices, questions about baby farms and the value of 'Western' versus 'non-Western' women's bodies are at the forefront of ethical and moral feminist debates. However, proponents of the industry argue that women in Anand know the risks of pregnancy and are willing to part with the baby in order to make much needed money that overwhelmingly outweighs any sort of income a woman could achieve on her own. Suman Dodia, a pregnant, baby-faced 26-year-old, said she planned to buy a house with the $4,500 she would receive from the British couple whose child she’s carrying. It would have taken her 15 years to earn that on her maid’s monthly salary of $25.

Undeniably, questions of outsourcing pregnancy are just as uncomfortable as the more recent trends in outsourcing breast feeding (wet nursing). However, it is also uncomfortable for feminists to deny the agency of these Indian women in suggesting that they don't know what they are getting in to or are being forced to become surrogates. Clearly, this is an issue of voluntariness and how much risk these women are willing to accept for a specific sum of money (much like feminist debates over prostitution or stripping). There is a sort of funny Western moral panic surrounding women and the commodification of their reproductive bodies. Prostitution is still taboo despite the explosive porn and stripping industries in the US on the basis that women should not 'sell' their bodies for a profit, coupled with antiquated notions of femininity and chastity. Pregnancy outsourcing is no different; if women have wombs that can be 'sold' like a product and a woman's quality of life rises exponentially as a result of her better financial position, who are we to say that she is not allowed to outsource her womb?

Source: http://www.telegraphindia.com/1080101/jsp/nation/story_8731116.jsp

No comments:

Creative Commons License
The Baby Bump Project by Meredith Nash is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.