More media coverage of surrogacy outsourcing

Posted by Marcy Darnovsky February 21, 2008
Biopolitical Times

US popular media's fascination with the "rent-a-womb" boom in India continues with a segment Wednesday morning on NBC's The Today Show, the highest-rated morning news and talk show in the United States since 1996.

The Today segment features a US couple from Texas whose surrogacy arrangement involves an on-line medical tourism company and a fertility unit in a large hospital in Pune, India. It includes a brief remark by a young woman serving as a surrogate, who affirms that the money she'll earn (about $7000) is what motivates her, and a longer interview with the contracting couple, who affirm that the money they'll save (about $50,000) is what motivates them.

Today's correspondent mentions "ethical questions" raised by surrogacy outsourcing - which, she reports, has grown to a half-billion dollar industry in India - and refers to unnamed "critics" who point out that the practice is completely unregulated by the Indian government, and that the infant mortality rate in India is 69 times higher than it is in the United States. She even gives a few seconds to Columbia University ethicist Robert Klitzman, who raises concerns about "psychological risks" and the lack of data on "medical problems and complications" that surrogates might experience.

She doesn't mention that the Texas couple's surrogate is carrying twins, which according to a policy mentioned on the website of the medical tourism company they used, means that she'll be required to have a Caesarean.

As in many other US accounts of surrogacy in India, the overall tone is upbeat and approving. A successfully established pregnancy is described as "the beginning of a new life" and "a new beginning" for the surrogate. At least as much attention is given to the intended parents' inconveniences as to the surrogates' emotional, social, and physical challenges. And the segment's wrap-up is Today co-host Matt Lauer breezily wishing the Texas couple "congratulations and good luck."

Previously on Biopolitical Times: