Reproductive outsourcing is a new but rapidly expanding enterprise in India. Clinics that provide surrogate mothers for foreigners say they have been inundated with requests from the United States and Europe in recent months, as word spreads of India’s combination of skilled medical professionals, relatively liberal laws and low prices.
Commercial surrogacy, which is banned in some European countries and subject to a wide spectrum of regulation in U.S. states, was legalized in India in 2002. The cost of the medical procedures, air tickets and hotels for two trips to India (one for the fertilization and a second to collect the baby) comes to around $25,000, roughly a third of the typical price in the United States.
This is going to feel wrong and exploitative to a lot of people. But almost all work that residents of poor third world countries can obtain producing goods or services for rich country consumers feels wrong and exploitative. And yet that work — in sweatshops, etc. — is invariably more lucrative than the practically available alternative of working in subsistence farming or in the purely local economy of poor country. And of course it helps people have babies they want to have. So ultimately it seems like a good thing to me. Of course someday perhaps we’ll invent machines that can gestate fetuses for us and move beyond some of these issues. Or perhaps by then there’ll be a luddite movement aimed at stopping the deployment of gestation machines lest they destroy the surrogacy jobs people are counting on.