How surrogacy came to be so popular in the choking backwater of Anand, a dairy community with a population of 150,000 in India's western state of Gujarat, is a long story. The short answer is Dr. Nayna Patel, 47, the clinic's director. A charismatic woman with flowing hair and a toothpaste-commercial smile, Patel single-handedly put Anand on the map when, in 2003, she orchestrated the surrogacy of a local woman who wanted to "lend" her womb to her U.K.-based daughter. The woman gave birth to test-tube twins — her own genetic grandchildren — and the event made headlines worldwide. Afterward, Patel was inundated with requests for surrogacy. She now has 45 surrogate mothers on her books, mostly impoverished women from nearby villages. Twenty-seven of them are currently pregnant, and each will be paid between $5000 and $7000 — the equivalent to upwards of 10 years' salary for rural Indians. More than 50 babies have been born at the clinic in the past three years, half to Westerners or Indians living overseas.
Another example of third-world exploitation? Globalization gone mad? The system certainly lends itself to the criticism that foreign women unwilling or unable to pay high Western fees happily exploit poor women at a 10th of the price it would cost back home. The system also avoids the legal red tape and ill-defined surrogacy laws women face in the U.S. (Not to mention that India, unlike some developing countries, has a fairly advanced medical system and doctors who speak English.) Or is it a mutually beneficial relationship? By some estimates, Indian surrogacy is already a $445-million-a-year business.
Governments aren't the only agents who can coerce people. Poverty, too, makes people vulnerable to coercion,
That completely ignores epigenetics.
Radical legislation is to be introduced to bring some order to this booming but almost unregulated sector.
* One measure will make it compulsory for prospective parents to carry proof that any infant born to a surrogate mother will have automatic citizenship in their home countries in an attempt to avoid messy legal battles.
* A second will stop clinics that perform the clinical procedures from sourcing, supplying and taking care of the surrogate mothers themselves.
* The bill limits the age of surrogate mothers to 35, imposes a maximum of five pregnancies, including their own children, and makes medical insurance mandatory.
* The draft bill bans post-natal contact between a surrogate mother and the child she has borne. The bill makes any such contact a criminal offence punishable by fines or imprisonment of up to two years "or something appropriate like that", Sharma said.
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