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Monday, July 16, 2007

Cheap Labour

I read the most thought-provoking article today at work, while I was cataloguing more than 30 academic journals and periodicals that came in the mail last week (I love my job!). My heart about stopped when I read the title:

Wombs For Rent: For $5000 a woman in India will have your baby. It’s the ultimate in cheap labour.

I had NO IDEA these types of fertility practices were going on, half a world away! The article described how Indian women, who earn approximately $50 PER MONTH, were lining up in droves to become surrogates for North American couples. The $5000 they would receive for baking the baby would give them the ability to buy a house, or send four children to college.

Apparently, fertility clinics in India are 5-star rated, as they cater to North Americans with “all the money”. The surrogate spends her entire nine months in the clinic, so she can be monitored and receive the highest degree of medical care. After all, if she miscarries, the parents don’t have to pay a single cent.

As I was reading the text, I noticed my heart started beating faster and my brain began to spin.

Oh my gosh, a surrogate for $5000? That’s ALL?

Richard’s sperm is a-ok. My eggs are rock-star. It’s my POS uterus that’s the problem. All we need is an oven. It doesn’t matter where the oven lives.

No, no! It’s so immoral! Think of these poor surrogates! It’s as if I’d be feeding the cycle of poverty and abuse. What if the surrogate was shunned by her family for selling her “body” (we all know about honour killings, etc)? What if…? What if…? What if…?

But think of how $5000 could change her life! Think of how she could buy a piece of land, or leave her abusive husband! Think of how she and her children could go to school!

And think about having another biological baby.


Deep down, I know that my heart would be forever plagued to even pursue something like this. There are so many moral implications, and the concept of renting a uterus makes me ill.

Yet, the reality is that we’ll be buying a baby through adoption. Will we be doing it because we want to save the world and prevent another human being from living the life of extreme poverty? Not really. That’s a perk, sure, but when it comes down to it, we’ll buy a baby because WE want one. Because we want Ellie to have a sibling. Because we want to experience the joys of parenthood times two.

I suppose, then, I’m struck by the admission that in both surrogacy and adoption, it’s not the “how” part of becoming a Mommy again that matters. It’s buying a uterus or buying a baby. Is one better or worse than the other?

The difference, I guess, is that surrogacy is so much more than economics. Sure, $5000 could make a huge difference in someone’s life. But, it’s more complicated than a payment-for-services transaction. She feels that baby kick for four months. She sees her belly blossom as the life inside her grows. She sings to that baby before sleeping. And then she has to give that profound human being away.

For $5000.


Anonymous said...

Playing the Devil's Advocate here... but what's the difference between giving away a baby you carried for 9 months if it's by surrogate or adoption? With adoption, half the genes in that baby you give away are yours. With a surrogate, none of them are. (Granted, if a baby is an orphan, that changes things.)
Are you maybe imputing what YOU would feel to these women? If they are in poverty, they don't need another mouth to feed, so would they really want to keep a baby that wasn't theirs in the first place? Or would they feel relief, and be thrilled to get the extra money to help out the situation of themselves and any of their OWN biological children they already have?

Peitricia Mae said...

To my mind, adoption represents a solution to a pre-existing problem, namely, a baby that cannot be cared for by his/her biological parent(s) in a sustainable manner. There are tremendous risks associated with pregnancy for both mother and baby, but someone who is already pregnant (even if unintentionally) faces them regardless of who raises the baby.

Surrogacy of the "rent-a-womb" kind involves a woman intentionally undertaking those risks purely for financial gain which potentially compromises her ability to provide for herself/her family in other ways in the future.

I have a hard time seeing a plan where economic imbalance leads someone to risk her life and the lives of those who depend upon her as a "solution."

(My $.02 on a contentious issue.)

jane said...

I might sound stupid for asking this question - but are surrogates always in it for the money? Is it possible (just possible) that there's someone out there willing to lend you their uterine real estate free of charge (or for the cost of medical expenses)? I'm not trying to be a dick, I'm seriously wondering.

Peitricia Mae said...

Hey Jane!

From what I've read, there are definitely women who are surrogates because they simply want to help others achieve their dreams. Personally I'm much more comfortable with that motivation (although I do wonder about it) than I am when there is any profit involved.

Chrystie said...

Yes, there are surrogates out there who will do it free of charge, simply because they want to help an "infertile" couple out. I'm not sure I want my mom offering up her uterus to bake her grandchildren though. And, yes, I absolutely see how paying an Indian woman $5000 for use of her uterus for nine months (Lord willing) could be beneficial to her survival and ability to feed and educate her family. However, as PM said, no matter what the circumstances regarding the surrogacy, it still means that someone would be putting their life at risk for ME. As routine as pregnancy and childbirth have become to North Americans, I am a prime example of what can go wrong. The mere fact that I need a surrogate is testament to the risk. I don't know if I could live with myself if something happened to my surrogate, whether she was a long-time friend or far-away stranger.

In keeping with the honesty of this blog, I will also admit that surrogacy scares the shit of out me because of the unknowns surrounding the baby. With adoption, as crude as it may sound, you essentially know what you're getting (with exceptions, of course). We won't adopt a preemie. We won't adopt a child whose mother has admitted to drinking with pregnant (again, I realize that the information given by the birth mother could be false). In adoption, there aren't any worries about miscarriage or implantation. You know the age of the child, the (relative) condition of the child, the gender of the child.

At this point in my life, I will admit that I will not be adopting a child as a humanitarian effort. I'm not out there to save the world. I want a baby because I want a baby. If I were able to bare one from my own body, I would, without question, do it. I want the surest bet that my second baby is healthy. It's terrible of me to say that, and I pray that y'all don't judge me, but I just don't know if I could have another Ellie. I realize, of course, that nothing is certain, and if God intends for Richard and me to parent two (or three) disabled children, we will. But, right now, standing in my July 2007 shoes, that is NOT what I want. I want to mother a typical child.

Sorry, this was a bit tangent-like. It was a long, hot day at work and I'm tired. Ironically, one of the strongest motivators in going to work each day (especially when it's 100 degrees in my non-air conditioned library!) is to make money to put into the "adoption account". Go figure.