Indian baby farms

Vasanti is pregnant, but not with her own child – she is carrying a Japanese couple’s baby. For this she will be paid $8,000 (£4,967), enough to build a new house and send her own two children, aged five and seven, to an English-speaking school – something she never thought was possible.

“I’m happy from the bottom of my heart,” says Vasanti.

She was implanted with their embryo in the small city of Anand in Gujarat and will spend the next nine months living in a nearby dormitory with about 100 other surrogate mothers, all patients of Dr Nayna Patel.

There are up to 10 surrogate mothers in each room. The women have their meals and vitamins delivered to them and are encouraged to rest.

Here is more, and it is estimated that the sector in India is valued at about $1.5 billion a year.  The individuals receiving the money have a problem, though:

“My parents will be pleased that their son and his wife have managed to build a house. Our status in society will go up, which will be a good thing.”

But the new house comes at a price. It will not be built in the same area as their old one, because of hostility from neighbours.

“If you are at home then everyone knows that we are doing surrogacy, that this is a test tube baby, and they use bad language. So then we can’t stay there safely,” says Vasanti.

For the pointer I thank Ray Lopez.


Three, 3!--that's three not six--pointer thanks -> from TC! Now I can retire in peace, I've achieved perfection.

If you didn't mean 3!, why did you write it?

Wow, serious nerd jokes.

Shouldn't this fall under, "Markets in Everything"?

You can outsource anything to India these days.

Cometh the Tleilaxu.

Gholas. He's welcome to them.

Axlotl tanks indeed.

Note our sick culture when having a child via surrogate to avoid the inconvenience of pregnancy is considered gross and immoral, whereas having an abortion for the same reason is a sacred, holy, brave decision. Life bad, death good.

What culture do you live in?

In my experience (and talking with people in our Parents of Multiples group), most people who support IVF also support surrogacy, and abortion, and vice versa.

A lot of people don't like IVF markets, though. Leftists don't like them because they're markets, and rightists don't like them because it's "tampering with the sacredness of life", whatever that is.

From what I gather, the leftist objection to IVF is that it's pro-natalist and therefore anti-woman. The "rightist" objection to IVF seems purely speculative on your part.

There doesn't seem to be much rightist objection to IVF. I've seen leftist objection on account of it being unnatural (this is more an anti-science and anti-technology attitude than some religious or mystical condemnation like eccentric-opinion was suggesting).

I'm sort of surprised by michael's comments. Mothers of multiple groups seem to be more anti-abortion than the local average, for obvious reasons. At least some of the members will be people who grappled with reduction decisions and decided against, or more generally fought hard for unborn babies. IVF is common in MoM groups.

I don't think surrogacy is all that common, though, so I'm not sure what opinion is held. I've never really had that conversation. Mothers of multiples are markedly more conservative than their surroundings, but conservatives don't really say much about surrogacy for fertility purposes.

Downthread Marie points out some Catholic doctrine opposing IVF. I would suggest 1) Catholics are not really rightist by any reasonable definition, and 2) Catholic doctrine and beliefs of actual real-life Catholics are not the same thing.

I also thought about gay men and surrogacy, which raises conservative ire. But I think the surrogacy part is pretty far down the list of issues.

It's kind of hard to hate on IVF, no matter where you are politically. It's easy to frame abortion negatively, whether or not that's correct. Surrogacy is weird and maybe a little off-putting, but a lot depends on the details. If your wife's sister carries your baby because of the consequences your wife's ovarian cancer treatment, that's hard to object to. If you hire a third-worlder to carry your baby because you're too busy at work, that seems strange.

Is this the future of family planning involving rich nation outsourcing to poor countries? Since most people in rich nations are not married, happy, economically stable and have health insuranceuntil they are around 30, the birth rate is bound to continue falling. Also do the parents pay for the birth costs in India as well as it is $15K in the States.

Is that a good thing?

Just wait until US health insurance plans start covering it! A lot of people have been floating the idea of subsidizing "medical tourism" already...

Is this available for single men? Heterosexual marriage in America is for, er, men with extreme tolerance of financial risk.

Yes, yes it is. Ask billionaire Simon Cowell, who recently had a surrogate kid sans the wife. Well I guess that proves he's not gay, as I always suspected. Not that it matters, ask Ricky Martin.

Okay, but is it available for single men who aren't part of the get-whatever-you-want elite?

Margaret Atwood, eat your heart out.

“If you are at home then everyone knows that we are doing surrogacy, that this is a test tube baby, and they use bad language. So then we can’t stay there safely,”

This is why I'm pessimistic about humanity. Rationally speaking, these neighbors have nothing to gain from inflicting such a social cost on the surrogates. Nor does anybody else, as far as I can see.

conformity pressure. I see it all around me in the U.S. It just comes in different forms.

You see NO rational reason why people in some Indian village might want to discourage their daughters and other girls/women from taking a bunch of $ by Americans/Europeans to move into some medical facility for 9 months, have surrogate babies, ship those babies to Manhattan, then go buy a new house or whatever?

I understand not everyone's into traditional family or religious values, but I think there might be some legitimate criticisms here.

I assumed he was being ironic...taking a poke at his economist hosts. No?


If no one is forced into it, what's the harm? Who is worse off as a consequence? What exactly do the critics gain? (DougT's response is probably closest to a half-rational answer, but of course it's not obvious the established order is really best for everyone, including the critics)

Voluntary transactions between consenting adults are always mutually beneficial. Like, for example, a meth dealer and his clientele.

Way to drag the debate quality down a notch further. They don't give meth to these women, do they?

So name the harm of this transaction.

(By the way, I do think people should have the right to take meth if they want to, but it's a completely different scenario)

I don't think it's dragging down the quality of the debate to point out that your "nobody's forced into it, what's the harm?" spergitarian point and sputter is baloney.

And of course you still completely ignore the question of which harms are actually caused in this transaction, even though I asked it twice now. Your meth comparison is a complete distraction, which of course you know perfectly well.

Hey, why don't you write "hurr durr stop liking what I don't like I hate your freedoms!" from now on? Then people can ignore you right from the start.

> which harms are actually caused in this transaction[?]

I don't actually agree with this, but let me try two harms. The usual argument in these cases is that the person would be better off if people did not have these options open to them.

She's getting money so she can get a bigger share of some fixed pie (big assumption), but she's doing so at the cost of somebody else not getting the house, so there's no real gain to society. Then it's just a prisoners dilemma. "Defecting" is "being a surrogate," all the women would be better off in none did it, and when one does she might be better off, but all the others are worse off.

Another possibility is that the woman is being predictably irrational, say by having too high a discount rate so she trades her long term psychological well-being for some trinkets, and she'd be better off if that was harder to do.

> The usual argument in these cases is that the person would be better off if people did not have these options
> open to them.

Maybe this is more apt:

The usual argument in these cases is that people would be better off if people did not have these options open to them.

I'll stupidly bite.

The Catholic Church is opposed to IVF (and a number of other sexual and reproductive practices) and John Paul II wrote quite a bit of material trying to explain the POV.

There is a non-academic volume called "Love and Responsibility" where he details the objections. It is not for the semi-literate, but the founding themes are accessible to everyone who wants to access them. One is the basic belief that we are supposed to love people and use things, not the other way around, and using another person as a means to your end is degrading to the humanity of the user.

There's a ton there. But, of course, rather than learning about the opposing POV and either agreeing with it or disagreeing with it in an informed manner, it's much easier to just state that your opposition is cowardly or narrow minded.

The harm that meth consumption does is independent of whether it's traded for money or not.
I know that there are some people who think that having a baby is worse than meth dealing, but most people congratulate a woman who announces her own pregnancy. Assuming that you follow the norm on pregnancy in general, why would you object to a surrogate pregnancy?


"One is the basic belief that we are supposed to love people and use things, not the other way around, and using another person as a means to your end is degrading to the humanity of the user."

Apparently, the Pope has no problem that billions of Catholics use him as a Pope, to the end of Catholicism. The Vatican uses countless employees, not to mention the global church itself. They are using millions of people as an end, every day, as does every other human on the planet.

I think the "using people" argument is brought up very selectively, and the way in which it is selected tells us something about the true underlying emotions. It is very unlikely that these emotions are well-calibrated to make other people better off, but politically rationalized in this way. More often than not, this causes costs to others without giving them any compensating benefit. Making people better off by taking options away from them by force is not a sane default logic.

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

But if you're looking for information on RC teaching about the dignity of human beings and labor, Rerum Novarum is a good starting point.

My point, incidentally, is not to convince anyone of the RC position on IVF and surrogacy.

My point is that folks who teach against their use have reasons a little more well thought out than "I hate women", "ick, that makes me uncomfortable", or "something vague and fuzzy about human life being sacred".

I am only familiar with the Catholic doctrine on this, but I'm sure any of the other religious or philosophical traditions that find the practices problematic also have considered opinions.

"Rob, You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

And of course you could not be bothered pointing out in a sentence or two in what way you think I'm going wrong.

Okay, I give up. I don't really have a stake in it anyway.

Oh, I certainly could be bothered. You didn't want to see me ramble, did you? The sources I referenced are better than anything I can say, but if you're not that interested in the subject you probably aren't going to tackle them.

If you consider the dichotomy I referenced (use things, love people, rather than loving things and using people) you can see what is meant by a utilitarian view of human relationships. Using someone means relating to that person as if he were a thing.

Now, we plenty of times say we love ice cream, but I'm sure you agree that if we genuinely loved ice cream, literally, as in having a relationship with the ice cream where we care about the welfare and the will of the ice cream, that would be disordered.

Same with using people, I don't mean you can't use someone like I can't take someone's hand when he helps me off the ground -- that may be making use of his hand, but it's not using the man.

If my attitude, however, is such that I never consider the human being that is holding his hand out to me -- as a facile example, say, the hand was being offered by a slave in the pre-Civil War American South and I consider the hand to be not attached to a person but a handy thing -- that would be using him.

There are plenty of world views that say you don't need to worry about that. Those world views concentrate on consent, or on fair compensation, rather than on inherent human dignity. Catholic theology -- and I'm sure other theologies and I suspect some forms of things like secular humanism -- says you do.

I totally understand you may feel the Church or others (or all of us) use theological concepts for self-interested, hypocritical power or wealth grabs. But the concept itself is a solid one, even if I haven't explained it well, even if you don't agree, or even if it has been misused. There's no contradiction between my saying I should not use people and my, for example, learning how to speak Spanish from a teacher. I am not "using" that person, in the way I would use a thing; we are engaging in an effort together that is wrapped up in a relationship, a relationship that as a Christian I am obligated to base on love. Seriously. I know, it sounds goofy.

See, I talk too much. That's why I make bad movie jokes instead. I'm sorry if I seemed insulting, I assumed you weren't actually interested in what I meant by "use".

Ah. Thanks for the explanation.

I think the love thing is totally creepy and hypocritical. I personally would be really creeped out if all the people I do business with aspired to love me. It outright scares me when politicians use the word (politics is all about the allocation of physical violence, after all).

It's hypocritical because you can't possibly love everyone you do business with. You're never going to wrap your transaction with an Amazon worker up in a personal relationship. Some of them die, or are fired, and replaced by others, and you never even notice. Surely Catholics still buy books online? Don't get me wrong, I think it's great if you have a personal positive relationship with your language teacher, but this clearly doesn't scale, and economies of scale have done more to increase human wellbeing than religion ever could.

In my mind, the problem with slavery is that it's nonconsensual, not that it treats a person as a thing. Economically speaking, people are functions, which is completely compatible with a prosocial attitude that cares about their wellbeing and respects them as people.

Ironically, love can be nonconsensual as well, as in coercive paternalism. The Catholic church uses people as objects in this sense, objects of ideological other-determination, whenever it pushes policies that override the consent principle. The prohibition on voluntary euthanasia is an example. And I'm sure I don't have to spell out the church's bloody history of extreme violence and dehumanization, in the name of the same God they still worship, the same dogmatic creeds they still pride themselves in, the same institution whose traditions they celebrate so proudly.

So emotionally, it's certainly a nice notion, politically I think it's toxic.

Ah, that's where I thought you were going.

But, hey, gotta give people the benefit of the doubt when they ask for it, right?

You get exactly the criticism you deserve. Your "loving" organization has worked very hard to undermine some of the most basic rights of strangers, including mine. Not something I will forget.

@Finch: the article says she's building a house. How is that depriving anyone else of a house? I dont have statistics but it seems likely that the number of houses has drastically increased in the USA since the American Revolution, how could that have happened if one person's gain is another's loss when it comes to houses?

And a house is a long-term capital good so I don't see the argument that her discount rate is too high. Furthermore I think that very few people would call a house "a trinket".

Yes, I think the arguments are incorrect. They're just the closest to coherent I could imagine. You have to come up with ways in which the woman harms herself or others. I generally accept that sometimes it makes sense to reduce everyone's choice set, or your own choice set, I just don't think that's the case here. I'd happily remove my ability to murder, for example. I can't see it ever doing me any good.

I too would like to see what Mike thinks. And I do admit the whole thing seems kind of creepy, but I have a problem with making decisions for other people on the basis of funny feelings.

Traditional cultures look upon children born out of wedlock as threats to the established order. There is no traditional category for surrogacy.

And the Indian culture still (un-offically) holds to the caste system so someone jumping up a caste level or two via womb rental is particularly disgusting to them.

Good for the neighbors. This is obscene.

Thinking this is obscene is obscene.

Looks like someone agrees with me—the surrogate mother featured in the article:

That's why we [did] this, and not in my entire life do I want my daughter to be a surrogate mother.

I must be some kind of caveman, thinking couples who can bear their own children ought to bear their own children.

It is possible to not want X without thinking that X is obscene.

It is also possible to not want X for your child without thinking that X is obscene.

It seems obvious from the article that she's glad she did this, although it was obviously very emotional. For example, having her son taken away. That does not mean that she wishes she hadn't given birth. Or that she'd want her son to live in poverty with her.

What is obscene is that the doctor is probably getting $48,000 for it and only paying the surrogate $8,000...

This seems like potentially a very good thing for poor Indian women to me. As demonstrated in this thread though, most people unforunately have a knee-jerk hatred of anything out of the ordinary when it comes to sex/reproduction. Seems like the sort of thing that both the (mainstream) left and right will oppose for different but equally stupid reasons.

This has been going on for years and there was a sticky legal case that came out of it -- the so-called Baby Manji case. A Japanese couple had hired an Indian surrogate mother and the couple divorced before they could take custody of the baby. The newly-divorced Japanese mother did not want custody and the Japanese father did. The problem is that, under Indian law, the Japanese father did not have any special legal rights to the child and was treated no differently from any other foreign single man trying to adopt an Indian child. I'm not sure what the final outcome was in that case but surrogacy can lead to complex issues surrounding citizenship and custody.

Wow, it's uterine replicators implemented via outsourcing.

A friend of mine, Vaishali Sinha, made a wonderful documentary about surrogacy in India 2 years ago: Made in India ( You may find it useful and interesting.

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