Complications of Surrogacy: The Case of Baby Manji

Posted by Marcy Darnovsky September 18, 2009
Biopolitical Times
Last summer, a baby girl named Manji was born to an Indian surrogate. These days, there's nothing too unusual about that: According to The Economist, the Indian surrogacy market is now worth about half a billion dollars. Surrogates are typically poor uneducated women from rural villages. Fertility clinics pay them between $4,500 and $5,000 for carrying a pregnancy, and charge their clients - many of whom come from outside the country - about twice that.

In this case, the arrangement got sticky not because the surrogate wanted to keep the baby (a common concern for those hiring a surrogate) but because the Japanese couple who were the "intended parents" had divorced. The husband still wanted to raise Manji, but his ex-wife did not.

The father found himself in a catch-22. India requires that a child be legally adopted before leaving the country, but bars single men from adopting. Manji's father was denied travel documents for the baby. The situation was widely covered in Indian and global media, and grew into a legal and diplomatic crisis.

Manji was eventually permitted to leave for Japan, but the debate within India about surrogacy has continued. Women's rights groups and other NGOs are calling for regulation and oversight, and raising questions about whether commercial surrogacy is a good idea at all.

A newly published paper by Duke University policy analyst Kari Points, Commercial Surrogacy and Fertility Tourism in India: The Case of Baby Manji, recounts Manji's story and addresses these topics. Points writes that the case has raised numerous questions:
What is a mother? What is a father? What does it mean to be a human? A citizen? How do we recognize and validate the identities of people and families formed through emerging technologies? And if, in doing so, we change our core definitions of family, have we made progress?

Previously on Biopolitical Times: