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The global trade in babies born through commercial surrogacy is slowly being shut down. India, Nepal, Thailand, and Mexico have introduced measures that would limit or ban foreigners from hiring locals as surrogate mothers. Cambodia and Malaysia look likely to follow suit.

In an industry in which the conventional wisdom has long dismissed efforts to “buck the market,” this is a surprising – and welcome – development. Uncritical proponents of biotechnology tend to celebrate the fact that technological breakthroughs have outpaced government regulations, arguing that this has allowed science to progress unfettered. But the determination of countries that have historically been centers of commercial surrogacy to stop the practice underscores the naiveté of that position.

It is no coincidence that the countries cracking down on cross-border surrogacy are those in which the practice takes place. The argument that all parties – surrogate mothers, babies, and commissioning parents – benefit from the transaction has not withstood scrutiny.

Consider India, where the surrogacy industry is valued at $400 million per year; until recently, some 3,000 fertility clinics were operating in the country....