August 31, 2010
Surrogacy And Reproductive Tourism In India

Rent-a-womb is a big international business in India.

You can outsource just about any work to India these days, including making babies. Reproductive tourism in India is now a half-a-billion-dollar-a-year industry, with surrogacy services offered in 350 clinics across the country since it was legalized in 2002. The primary appeal of India is that it is cheap, hardly regulated, and relatively safe.

Note this combination: Hardly regulated and safe. I bet surrogacy dad Patri Friedman is not surprised.

Once it becomes possible to create eggs by turning adult cells back into stem cells even women in their later 40s and later will be able to have biological children using surrogacy. Many women who spend her 20s and 30s making lots of money will find surrogacy an attractive proposition.

So what do you think of surrogacy? Acceptable between consenting adults? If not why not?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 August 31 11:22 PM  Bioethics Reproduction


Comments
razib said at August 31, 2010 11:54 PM:

the only ppl who oppose are social justice lefty types. 'exploitation.'

Brett Bellmore said at September 1, 2010 4:10 AM:

After watching my wife go though 17 hours of labor, followed by a c-section, I'm willing to say the idea has merits. It seems unlikely she'd ever deliver normally. And given my prostatectomy, I'd need IVF anyway to get her pregnant. So it's not even outrageously more expensive.

Think we'd probably go with the Philippines, though. The cost would be comparable, and the surrogate could be a relative. Excellent medical system there, too, for those who can afford access. (Which is not most of the population, regrettably.)

I see no ethical problems here, at all, assuming informed consent, and a voluntary surrogate.

sabril said at September 1, 2010 6:05 AM:

Although it seems a bit creepy to me, I pointed out elsewhere that one big advantage to having children this way is that there's no mother on the scene to fight with over custody, to make up false accusations of abuse, to get you kicked out of your own house, to legally enslave you with crippling child support payments, or to demand sexual fidelity while at the same time denying you sexual satisfaction.

kurt9 said at September 1, 2010 9:22 AM:

What about exo-wombs?

Nick G said at September 1, 2010 10:32 AM:

relatively safe. What does that mean?

LarryD said at September 1, 2010 12:06 PM:

"Once it becomes possible to create eggs by turning adult cells back into stem cells..."

A pluripotent stem cell is not the same as an ovum. Technical issues aside, kids with only one parent are high risk for a number of social pathologies, so society might well discourage such technology.

The pregnancy process is very complicated, we are a long way from creating artificial wombs.

kurt9 said at September 1, 2010 12:37 PM:

This kind of surrogacy will have both the liberal-lefty as well as religious right types jumping up and down like organ grinder's monkeys.

Sione said at September 1, 2010 1:58 PM:

Yup, the lefties and the god-botherers will definately go to twon on this. That'll be used justify further extension of government powers. That, in turn, will result in high costs and all manner of burdensome regulation. It's another govt failure in the making.

Sione

Brett Bellmore said at September 1, 2010 2:30 PM:

"What about exo-wombs?'

I suspect a modest amount of genetic engineering could make some other species, perhaps cattle, into suitable surrogate mothers for humans. Some care would have to be taken, as a good deal of fetal development is influenced by the hormonal environment provided by the mother. But it's probably feasible.

Dave Gore said at September 1, 2010 2:44 PM:

I wonder how many wealthy childless couples looking to adopt have combined an egg from Harvard, sperm from Yale, and surrogacy services from India? If you can't have your own biological child, why not create something special?

Patri Friedman Friedman said at September 1, 2010 8:48 PM:

David - I know at least one "single mom by choice" who went crazy picking a sperm donor based on SAT scores, healthy family back 2 generations, athletic performance, etc. Haven't heard of a couple doing it w/ both genetic parents. It would take a slightly odd & specific sort of reproduction urge - not one based around your own genes (otherwise why not try IVF?), and not one based around giving a poor kid a good home (or why not adopt?), instead based on "I want to have the most amazing kid I can even with no relation to me." If IVF fails, I can see why that would be attractive. I expect we'll see more of it as surrogacy, egg, and sperm donation all become more common & commoditized due to the decreasing fertility of the western world (a combination of increased age of attempt and something about our lifestyle - lots of arguments about what).

The issues that we had were more related to the different customer service standards of India & the western world than anything about the basic procedure. Also, I am a bit worried / suspicious that the utility function of the clinic places little value on the healthy/safety/happiness of the surrogate (other than as relates to the child), there have been a few hints of that, and it's a bit sad. We tried first in Panama, and there the customer service was even worse, it was more expensive, but the surrogates were much better paid and seemed to be more respected.

Thanks for the shout out - and hooray for advanced reproduction technology! Exo-wombs are a better long-term solution, of course.

Tot said at September 1, 2010 8:55 PM:

Outsourced surrogacy is great. Even single men can be dads without risking marriage to a gold-digging American woman.

Indian surrogacy is one of the 'Four Horsemen' that will bring down feminism in the West.

And it is about time.

For married couples, this service has merit if, say, a couple wants to have 3 kids all close together in age. They could have 3 surrogates going in parallel, and get 3 kids born around the same time.

RebeccaH said at September 1, 2010 9:14 PM:

I know of several local families who have adopted children from abroad. These are children who would have little to no future if left in the orphanages of their home countries, and who have thrived in the environments provided by their adoptive families. In future, they will no doubt be assets to their communities and the nation. Why is it necessary to create new children by surrogate when there are so many still wanting families?

Tot said at September 1, 2010 9:17 PM:

RebeccaH,

Why is it necessary to create new children by surrogate when there are so many still wanting families?

Some people want their own genes, DUHHHH!!

Vinny B. said at September 1, 2010 10:01 PM:

to demand sexual fidelity while at the same time denying you sexual satisfaction.

Sounds like we married the same exact type of woman.

sabril said at September 2, 2010 1:24 AM:

"For married couples, this service has merit if, say, a couple wants to have 3 kids all close together in age. They could have 3 surrogates going in parallel, and get 3 kids born around the same time."

If nothing else, this would save a lot of money on college tuition, based on current financial aid rules.

"Why is it necessary to create new children by surrogate when there are so many still wanting families?"

Even putting aside that many people want to continue their own genetic lines (and those of their parents), when you adopt a child there is a good chance that you are buying into big problems, e.g. a child who was exposed to a lot of drugs or alcohol in his or her mother's womb; a child whose genes predispose him or her to low intelligence or behavioral problems; etc. This is just the nature of children who end up in orphanages, combined with the fact that the healthiest children will surely be snapped up by the elite and well connected. Another issue is that a child is likely to feel a better sense of connection with his or her biological parents.

It reminds me of a young lady I know who recently acquired a shelter dog for essentially the same reasons you describe -- why subsidize dog breeders when there are so many shelter dogs who need homes? Well, the shelter dog has developed a lot of expensive, heart-breaking health problems. Of course, you might run into problems like that with a purebread, but I think that if you go to a reputable, professional breeder you are much more likely to end up with a healthy dog.

Brett Bellmore said at September 2, 2010 3:24 AM:

"Of course, you might run into problems like that with a purebread,"

There's an excellent chance you will, many of the purebred varieties are overly inbred, and have characteristic health problems such as hip dysplasia. If you want a really healthy dog, you generally want to avoid purebreds in favor of mutts. Or at least stick to "working" varieties that the AKA hasn't had a chance to screw up yet by obsessive focus on cosmetic features over general health and temperament.

There's a lot to be said for hybrid vigor, it's one of the reasons I looked for a wife on the other side of the globe.

sabril said at September 2, 2010 8:10 AM:

"Sounds like we married the same exact type of woman."

I would guess that most middle aged American women who are married with children are like this, to a greater or lesser extent. Their genes are telling them to focus their energy more on their children and less on their husbands. The "you go girl" types are telling them to focus their energy more on themselves and less on their husbands. And under the current legal system, there's far less disincentive than in the past to giving their husbands short shrift.

So we are left with men whose sexual and emotional needs are not being met all that well and to make matters worse, the husband's genes are screaming at him to find some new young hottie.

Meanwhile, we are constantly told that men who philander are terrible human beings, almost as bad as racists. (Except of course for prominent liberals.)

"There's an excellent chance you will, many of the purebred varieties are overly inbred"

I'm not an expert, but I think if you go to a competent breeder, the chances are pretty favorable.

Sione said at September 2, 2010 1:16 PM:


Sabril, responding to other contributors writes, "So we are left with men whose sexual and emotional needs are not being met all that well and to make matters worse, the husband's genes are screaming at him to find some new young hottie."

Life is short. It is far too short to spend it in the misery of unhappiness. It is far too short to invest it in some selfish harridan. For goodness sake get into some new young hotties and get quit of the old crone. Time to do it is right now.

Sione

Abby said at September 2, 2010 6:55 PM:

I think that surrogacy is okay for couples, as the child, once born, would be given back into the care of its biological parents. On the other hand, I find it morally reprehensible for an adult to cause a child to be born with the express intention of denying that child its right to know and be cared for by BOTH its biological parents. The only reasons a child should ever be denied that right is when one parent has either died or been legally declared unfit and had his/her rights revoked, or if the parent has voluntarily abandoned the child. Not that the fertility industry is interested in limiting their business transactions by anything so restricting as ethical considerations of the rights of children.

As for adoption, there are a lot of problems with it that need to be addressed at a legal/policy level, but people who don't want to adopt because of the chance a child who seemed healthy turns out to have problems later SHOULD NOT be having children at all. Kids are people, and their worth as people isn't decreased just because they're not as "desirable" as their parents would like them to be. One's biological children aren't guaranteed to be perfect, and just because a kid in need of adoption is more likely to be "defective" is not a good excuse for shying away from trying to adopt a "normal" kid, if the prospective parents don't think they can handle a child with special needs.

sabril said at September 3, 2010 4:32 AM:

"On the other hand, I find it morally reprehensible for an adult to cause a child to be born with the express intention of denying that child its right to know and be cared for by BOTH its biological parents."

And yet women do essentially this on a regular basis, in large numbers, with the financial and/or moral blessing of Western Culture.

" Kids are people, and their worth as people isn't decreased just because they're not as 'desirable' as their parents would like them to be. "

I look forward to your impending nuptials with a homeless crackhead.

"and just because a kid in need of adoption is more likely to be 'defective' is not a good excuse for shying away from trying to adopt a 'normal' kid"

Why not? If it's because all children have equal value, then instead of bearing your own children, or even adopting a healthy child, will you seek out to adopt the child with the most serious emotional and physical problems?

Randall Parker said at September 4, 2010 9:23 AM:

Abby, You say:

people who don't want to adopt because of the chance a child who seemed healthy turns out to have problems later SHOULD NOT be having children at all.

So you've just said that the vast bulk of the people who made their own babies should not be having children at all.

Let us be real:

- Most people feel more loyal and dedicated to their own genetic children. There are very likely deeply instinctual needs that cause this.

- People who put up babies for adoption are, on average, dumber, more impulsive, less conscientious, less responsible, and less mentally healthy. All those traits have genetic components to them. So intelligent, responsible, and mentally healthy people can have far better kids on average by making their own babies.

sabril said at September 4, 2010 12:45 PM:

"So you've just said that the vast bulk of the people who made their own babies should not be having children at all."

Fundamentally, that it the view of modern Leftism. In essence, modern Leftism is a suicide cult. Modern Leftism is the product of shame and envy. Shame by many people (mostly white) at their superiority and envy of the superiority of certain people (mostly white and mostly men). Leftism, with its insistence, against all evidence, on the mantra of blank slate egalitarianism, seeks to make everyone equal by tearing down the superior.

Silver said at September 9, 2010 11:08 AM:

kurt9,

This kind of surrogacy will have both the liberal-lefty as well as religious right types jumping up and down like organ grinder's monkeys.

And the best thing is there really isn't all that much they can do about it.

Dave Gore,

I wonder how many wealthy childless couples looking to adopt have combined an egg from Harvard, sperm from Yale, and surrogacy services from India? If you can't have your own biological child, why not create something special?

Or even if you can have your own child. Demograhpics is destiny so any intelligent government should subsidize the option of "specific procreation" in order to both decrease the frequency of less potent lineages and increase the frequency of more potent ones.

To ease concerns, a sensible lefty perspective could be that doing so rewards the prudent poor. (Not that I'm holding my breath for lefties to ever be sensible, but the point remains.)

Rebecca,

I know of several local families who have adopted children from abroad. These are children who would have little to no future if left in the orphanages of their home countries, and who have thrived in the environments provided by their adoptive families.

So what? Those are now children who, on average, will grow up and birth children of their own who will do their own bit to make it all that much less likely that children born in richer (ie whiter -- who we kidding?) countries will have environments of their own to "thrive" in. Good work, Becs.

Why is it necessary to create new children by surrogate when there are so many still wanting families?

The short but perfectly accurate (and in my view adequate) answer is: better people.

Scares the pants off some people, I get it. But never before have so many been so scared of something so utterly benign. When you get down to it the great fear is that such progeny is going to grow up and parade their "perfection" about and make everyone else feel hopelessly inferior in comparison. But how likely is that to occur? Is modesty a virtue or isn't it? The vast majority of us recognize it as such and promptly reward it while punishing its opposite, far more often than not eliciting the desired behavior.

If you want a preview of what that would be like just imagine that all the smart and beautiful people that inhabit our world today were intentionally engineered that way -- would you really care if that turned out to be the case? (Why?)

Abby,

On the other hand, I find it morally reprehensible for an adult to cause a child to be born with the express intention of denying that child its right to know and be cared for by BOTH its biological parents.

Why?

While being reasonably representative of my two closely relate ethnic backgrounds, I did not look much like either of my parents and grew up harboring a strong suspicion I was adopted. An older family acquaintance, drunk, intimated this to me one night around the time I was 20. After initially being crushed by the news I very soon decided I couldn't possibly care less, the important thing being that I'm alive and well with people in this world whom I love and who love me. (It eventually turned out not to be true -- my parents were my biological parents. I was too timid to confront my parents directly but acquired other incontrovertible proof.)

Besides that, why wouldn't a child be impressed to learn that he or she was specifically created? It seems to me that what children are most anxious about over their adopted status is being unwanted or unloved. I think being told that "we wanted YOU, specifically, not just 'any random baby' (not that there's anything SUPERIOR about you!)" would help a kid feel pretty special.

Taras said at November 10, 2010 1:30 PM:

Historically, many couples traveled to India. I am certain there are some good clinics and great fertility doctors in India. However, why go to India, when you can get the same treatments or better closer to home? A trip to India typically requires over 20 hour flight and of course a visa. There are great fertility clinics closer to the U.S., and companies such as MedVacation work with countries which are closer and often don't require visas for U.S. citizens.

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