By Amritapa Basu:
“I feel the baby growing in my womb for nine months, yet I know in my heart that at the end, I have to part with it. It rips my heart off every time but being poor can make you do anything”, says Mili. Many such Milis live in our society who willingly rent out their wombs to childless couples to add that extra bit to theirÂ meagerÂ income. Surrogate motherhood — an issue that has sparked off much legal and moral debate.
Though commercial surrogacy was legalized in India in 2002, emotional and health factors remain unanswered. India is a favourite destination for international couples as it is cheaper to get a willing surrogate than in developed countries. It has been estimated that the total amount of money required in India — maintenance of the surrogate, clinical charges, hospital and delivery expenditure, regular medical check-ups also the costs of flight tickets and hotels, comes to roughly a third of the price compared with going through the procedure in the UK. A surrogate mother in India may receive up to 2-3 lakhs for bearing a child. In most cases, it has been observed that husbands of these volunteering women are daily wagers who are unable to earn enough money to support the family, to provide a better future for their children.
Surrogacy are opted by couples who are unable to conceive their own child due to certain physical problem. They choose surrogacy over adoption as they do not want to face the strict ‘red-tape’ of the adoption procedure and also want to attempt all possible ways to have their own biological child before they go for adoption. IVF centres have increased rapidly after 2002 and so have the throngs of aspiring couples who come to India in hope of going back home with their own little one.
In India, surrogate mothers tend to be considered social outcasts. They have to keep matters a secret as bearing someone else’s child brings with it stigma and social ostracizing. On top of that, these women have to face inhuman treatment at the clinics. They are forced for repeated artificial insemination in case the previous attempt fails. They are not allowed to meet the would-be parents or ask for payments before the child is handed over to the couple. In case some genetic aberration is detected, she is forced to go for an abortion though she maybe pro-life and is made to go through the whole process once again. However, the fertility clinics claim that surrogates are taken good care of and the provision for not letting the surrogate and the would-be parents is in the interest of both of them. This is for the prevention of exploitation by either of them. They say that surrogacy is a noble social work as childless couples get blessed with their own child.
Cheap ‘womb renting’ for couples and profitable returns for ‘womb-letting’ may answer the economical front but in absence of strict health care laws, who were to be blamed if the surrogate mother’s health fails or she dies. More often than not, these women have quite few children of their own and were she to die in this process of repeated surrogate pregnancy in a frenzied bid to make money, what would happen to her own children? One must not forget the fact that maternal mortality rate in India is one of the highest among the developing nations.
It is said that ‘motherhood’ is the best thing that can happen to a woman but when the womb is put out on rent isn’t something more than money at stake? After all, it is more than just monetary liability.