News & Politics

Reproductive Tourism

I'm not sure that we want to turn reproduction into a service industry.
This kind of out-of-control globalization, wherein wealthier women are able to rent the wombs of poorer ones, makes me extremely uncomfortable.

I'm certainly sympathetic to the plight of couples who can't conceive for whatever reason. And it certainly makes sense for women to voluntarily carry someone else's pregnancy if it means making a lot of money. But I think it's possible to be skeptical of this situation without passing judgment on the people involved in it, most of whom are doing the best that they can in tough circumstances.
An article published in The Times of India in February questioned how such a law would be enforced: "In a country crippled by abject poverty," it asked, "how will the government body guarantee that women will not agree to surrogacy just to be able to eat two square meals a day?"
One could argue that surrogates are simply providing a service like any other. But I'm not sure that we want to turn reproduction into a service industry. The inequalities here are so stark -- and the carrot of thousands of dollars so tempting for women in a country with astounding poverty rates -- that writing if off as purely business is inadequate.
"Surrogates do it to give their children a better education, to buy a home, to start up a small business, a shop," Dr. Kadam said. "This is as much money as they could earn in maybe three years. I really don't think that this is exploiting the women. I feel it is two people who are helping out each other."
Jill Filipovic is a New York-based freelance writer and a law student at NYU. More of her writing is available online at her blog, Feministe.
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