Reproductive Tourism: Surrogacy Outsourcing Takes Hold in Guatemala

Posted by Marcy Darnovsky June 1, 2010
Biopolitical Times
Karen Smith Rotabi
Fertility clinics in India pioneered the now burgeoning business of offering cut-rate surrogacy services by recruiting very poor women to gestate babies for people coming from wealthier areas around the world. An article posted at RH Reality Check reports that the practice is now occurring in Guatemala as well.

Karen Smith Rotabi, Assistant Professor of Social Work at Virginia Commonwealth University, writes that surrogacy in Guatemala is replacing international adoptions from the country. She notes that the international adoption system in Guatemala included "the most alarming and systematic problems in recent times." Child rights advocate Claudia Rivera asserts that "children were manufactured" in the country to supply the system.

Now, some of the same people that arranged international adoptions from Guatemala are acting as surrogacy brokers. And the "labor force" - the women who relinquish babies they have borne - will be drawn from the same impoverished communities in a country that the UN recognizes as having the greatest gender inequality in the Western hemisphere. Smith Rotabi writes:
Desperately poor, Guatemalan women will inevitably find themselves being offered an opportunity to earn a wage to birth a baby in this dollar-a-day nation-not unlike previous underground adoption activities.
Smith Rotabi considers commercial surrogacy in conditions of extreme poverty to be an issue of human rights. She says that those developing the Guatemalan surrogacy business are "stepping into a grey area [that] will challenge us all to consider what is right and wrong and how far to take the privilege of purchasing power." And she calls for a political and policy response:
Developing an expanded or more precise definition of human trafficking and a new area of regulatory control will become important considerations in this next wave of the global baby business.

"Human Rights and the Business of Reproduction" is the first of three articles on the global surrogacy trade to be published by RH Reality Check.

Previously on Biopolitical Times: