Outsourcing Pregnancy

April 2, 2006

You know this trend: American companies locate their call centers in India in order to take advantage of that country’s cheap, educated labor market. And I’m sure you are also aware of this trend: parents with fertility issues turning to surrogates to gestate their ebryos and birth their babies.

But did you ever imagine that American women would take advantage of globalization to seek cheaper surrogates? Well, here we are.

There exists some shame around the arrangement, so Indian women are renting their wombs to American couples on the down-low. In exchange for nine months of secrets and lies and stretchmarks, they are able to pay for their own children’s education, get out of debt, or afford home improvements.

My knee-jerk reaction is to view this as unseemly. But I believe it’s because of my own discomfort with the business aspect of the fertility industry. Perhaps I have bought into the almost religious mystification of fertility and birth: that it is sacred, miraculous. And it can be! But sometimes, the ideal is not attainable. Just like sex itself. Sometimes the endgoal is reached through a business transaction.

I am more sympathetic to the surrogates. I remember, when I was much younger and my eggs had not passed their freshness dating, lingering over ads for egg donors in the back of magazines. I could have used the money, but I was afraid of the procedure.

But the American women who bargain shop across hemispheres to get a better price on bun ovens? When it comes to the business of acquiring a child for the childless, it is difficult to parse what is noble, what is necessary, and what is exploitation.