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Wombs for rent: Indian surrogate mothers tell their tales

Published Feb 25, 2013 07:05am


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TO GO WITH India-health-fertility,FEATURE by Beatrice Le BohecIn this photograph taken on February 5, 2013 an Indian surrogate mother enters the Surrogacy Centre India (SCI) clinic in New Delhi.  Commercial surrogacy is a booming industry in India with legions of childless foreign couples looking for a low-cost, legally simple route to parenthood.     AFP PHOTO / SAJJAD HUSSAIN
In this photograph taken on February 5, 2013 an Indian surrogate mother enters the Surrogacy Centre India (SCI) clinic in New Delhi. Commercial surrogacy is a booming industry in India with legions of childless foreign couples looking for a low-cost, legally simple route to parenthood. — AFP Photo

NEW DELHI: As baby Lili celebrates her first birthday in Australia, far away in India her surrogate mother recalls the day the child was born - and on whom she never laid eyes.

“I averted my gaze,” says Seita Thapa, recounting her experience of giving birth at the Surrogacy Centre India clinic in New Delhi last February on behalf of a gay male couple who used an egg donated from another woman.

“Why would I want to see the child? - I have my own children,” said the mother of two teenagers aged 16 and 18, adding that the clinic gives courses that “prepare us mentally for the fact it's not our baby”.

Commercial surrogacy is a booming industry in India with legions of childless foreign couples looking for a low-cost, legally simple route to parenthood.

While the Indian government has been pushing the country as a medical tourism destination, the issue of wealthy foreigners paying poor Indians to have babies has raised ethical concerns in many Indian minds about “baby factories”.

The Confederation of Indian Industry, a leading business association, estimates the industry now generates more than $2 billion in revenues annually.

In a bid to silence critics, India recently issued rules barring foreign gay couples and singles from using surrogates, drawing sharp criticism from rights advocates and fertility clinics who called the move discriminatory, but the industry remains otherwise unregulated.

Clinic owners deny ill-treatment of mothers, saying it is in their interest to treat the women well in order for them to have healthy babies.

Thapa, 31, who has the jet-black hair and almond eyes of the Indians of the northeast, said she has no doubt what she did was right in allowing the Australian couple to use her womb to fulfil their dream of parenthood.

“I wanted to be a surrogate mother because I wanted to deposit money into an account for my children for their future. I also wanted to help parents who cannot have children,” Thapa said.

“I am proud to have given birth to a beautiful baby.

“The baby and parents are in my prayers forever. I feel like part of the family,” added the former cook, her eyes suddenly bright with tears. She refused to say how much money she earned from the surrogacy but says she wants to start a second pregnancy in April. The clinic told AFP the mothers get $6,000 from the $28,000 total surrogacy procedure cost.

During her pregnancy, Thapa lived with her husband in accommodation in New Delhi rented by the Surrogacy Centre India clinic, with over 100 other surrogates.

Thapa's own children in their hometown of Darjeeling never knew their mother was pregnant.

“I didn't tell them so as not to disturb their studies,” she said.

Thapa declined to say how much she received from being a surrogate but said she wants to undertake another pregnancy in April. In 2012, 291 babies were born in the clinic that opened in 2008. They now live in 15 different countries, including Canada, Australia, Japan, Norway and Brazil.

In New Delhi and across India, there are dozens of clinics like the Surrogacy Centre but many refuse to open their doors to the media. According to Dr Shivani Sachdev Gour, director of the centre, the women recruited never have the desire to keep the baby they have carried for nine months.

“They have their own children, they've finished building their families,”she said, calling people who oppose surrogacy “ignorant.””They should come here to meet parents who dream of having a child. How can they deny them this right?”Marcia, a 40-year-old Brazilian who lives in Luxembourg, is one such case.

After trying for three years, Marcia has just arrived with her husband in New Delhi to sign a contract with the clinic.

“When I look at the photographs of all these babies in the waiting room, I want to cry,” she told AFP, refusing to reveal her full name because she has not told her family about her step.

“I'd rather not meet the surrogate mother who is chosen - especially since it is not certain the pregnancy will be successful. We've already had so much disappointment.”She said she will initially attempt to have her own embryos transferred into the womb of the surrogate mother but if that fails, she will opt for an “egg donation”.

“At first it was difficult to get used to the idea of another woman carrying my child, but if this is the only solution, then we will have a baby this way -- it's like a miracle,” Marcia said.

Gour said the clinic organises counselling sessions for the surrogate mothers to stress the importance of eating nourishing food, adding the majority of the women want to repeat the experience.

Mamta Sharma, 29, from one of India's poorest states, Uttar Pradesh, has been a surrogate mother twice, most recently last year for an Australian couple.

“Everything has changed in my life with the money I got,” said the mother of four children who invested her earnings in a new house.


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Comments (28) Closed

urawal Feb 25, 2013 11:55am
Lately ,it has become a booming industry , especially in certain selected states where the society has developed a consensus about it being ethical. Since it is considered a "NORMAL" way of earning a lump sum amount together with the satisfaction of fulfilling the wishes a childless couples-there seems to be a bright future to this "FACTORY".
Syed Feb 25, 2013 07:59am
welcome to shining India, girls and being sold, raped and shot dead in braod day light.
abbastoronto Feb 25, 2013 02:21pm
While Noble Jinnah freed us from the English from day 1, India decided to continue Colonialism by other means. India has peace, we have freedom. Freedom has a price. We are willing to pay it.
Amit Feb 26, 2013 03:50pm
... and that is the worse you could think of? How about the world will be a better place because people will consider everyone there brothers & sisters.
Abid Feb 25, 2013 02:09pm
Let us first get our own house in order bro.
ashish Feb 25, 2013 02:06pm
Same thing happening at home in Islamic world...No difference between women and pet ......
karim Feb 25, 2013 03:54pm
I think this could become part of the lifestyle for the rich of the future. Women already don't want to ruin their figure by pregnancy and motherhood so it could become a status symbol for the rich that their children will all be borne by surrogate mothers. I think world of the future could be really strange and disjointed.
indie Feb 26, 2013 03:28pm
You are probably spoiled by the 'Vikki donor' picture. I have a friend who has had a procedure after trials spanning more than 15 years. Today she has a healthy baby of her own thanks to the giant leap science has taken. There is nothing wrong or amoral about fertility treatment and the extreme step of opting for a surrogate mother. If you are childless and want a baby so desparately in your life, you can understand this. Don't be cruel - and 'Vikki donor' so much cheapens such an emotional test parents undergo for a baby. The picture must have been banned for hurting sentiments of childless couples/aspiring parents. Having a baby is not so simple for everyone, and definitely not as cheap or reckless as the picture portrays. India is a medical tourism destination, and this is only one are you wanna talk about. Foreign tourists including even Pakistanis visit India for joint replacement surgeries, organ transplants, cardiac surgeries, eye cornea transplants etc etc. Surrogacy is merely a step forward as its common in China too. Pakistanis can understand what this is only when medical advancement in your own country fares at par with India.
sanchari bhattacharya Feb 25, 2013 04:14pm
China has one of the biggest surrogacy in the world. indian Govt. has some restrictions on it unlike China
Nasir Feb 25, 2013 04:18pm
It is far too easy to get an egg and sperm in an open market mix em together and have a baby. The question is, where gays and lesbians are concern, what happens to the baby when gay/lesbian seperate? Some how the whole concept bring pictures to my mind of harvesting babies
indie Feb 26, 2013 03:19pm
So what is your problem? If you have ever been in the boat, you will know. You are from a country where people marry very young probably even before they find good jobs for themselves. Its not the case in the west where people settle down first in their lives before starting to think of raising a family by which age sometimes, their fertility rates might have dropped. When you can accept cancer cure and cardiac surgery procedures from west, why not the next step? After all the parentage is still clear. And finally are you sure fertility rate is Pakistan is best? Are all your men, 100% of your men, free of vitality drugs or performance enhancing drugs or, harmone injections for instance? Go through Arab newspapers to get an idea of declining fertility rates in the Gulf. In the west, people opt for surrogate mothers. In your culture and country,men probably would want surrogate wives, that is the difference. Its entirely upto an individual to decide what he or she has to do with his/her life within the legal frame.
Mister Feb 25, 2013 05:54pm
this tells west is loosing fertility fast!!!!
naeem khan Feb 25, 2013 06:06pm
long live secularism long live the largest democracy no wonder why the west admires India
Baloch Lion Feb 25, 2013 10:17pm
Love to india.........
Ahmed Sultan (India) Feb 25, 2013 10:43pm
what about people in Pakistan
ummemuhammed Feb 25, 2013 11:38pm
Ugh, it is so unethical, I feel sick... If nothing else, how will anyone follow the complex genetical lineage of these children? Imagine a brother and a sister in different countries marrying each other 20 yrs down the line because they do not know they come from the same donar mother in some other country...
sri1ram Feb 26, 2013 02:03am
Yeah, as if those never happen where you are.. Be happy with such nice thoughts.
HsN Feb 26, 2013 03:24am
Although there are some facts -media and survey reports- behind your comment, but unfortunately we Indian are very moderate to criticise others -specially Pakistan- and don't like any one to show us shining mirror of our shining society "massive thumbs down is the prove of this attitude". On the one hand, we find Pakistanis critically analysis their shortcoming -and we join them- in their media, like DAWN NEWS, but when it comes to evaluate Indian society then our moderation evaporate and we hide in "none of your business" and "every thing is fine" mode. We need to get over this attitude and have a mature discussion of our society -short coming- as openly as we pointing finger on others.
ZAN SHAREEF (@ZANSHAREEF) Feb 26, 2013 04:24am
Same thing happens in Pakistan, at least the masses protest against rape in India.
Dravid Feb 26, 2013 04:34am
Why such hatred for India Syed Sahib? Don't you have something better to do like writing a Taweez or something? I am a Pakistani myself, and I am embarrassed by hate mongers like you.
Rasool Bakhsh Feb 26, 2013 04:36am
Why such hatred for India Syed Sahib? Don
Amit Feb 26, 2013 05:36am
Syed these women gave childless couples a blessing of having there own child and we Indians admire that - yes to us that is shining India. Now what do you Pakistanis admire? Look around you!
Saurabh Feb 26, 2013 05:58am
Still it's better than burning Pakistan where humans are slaughtered everyday everywhere.
anil gupta Feb 26, 2013 06:04am
I thought surrogacy is bad until i read this article. If babyless parents are getting babies and intrested women becomes surrogate mothers who are getting paid so that they can educate their kids etc, and no sexual contact is required this is a win-win situation.
comments review Feb 26, 2013 07:29am
It is hard to understand the ethical point of conduct under these circumstances.
Salim Feb 26, 2013 10:06am
Did you understand what the article was all about? Or are you one of those Pakistanis who have a huge problem comprehending what you read.
Aslam Bhopal India Feb 26, 2013 12:32pm
Please tell the world -- What is the Status of Woman and Girl Child in your Country ?
raja hindustani Feb 26, 2013 05:38pm
Freedom.?? Really..??? ;)