The tale of ‘Outsourced pregnancy’

“A woman can be a ‘surrogate’ mother only because her womanhood is deemed irrelevant and she is declared an ‘individual’ performing a service. At the same time, she can be a ‘surrogate’ mother only because she is a woman” (Pateman 1988: 217).

Did you know?

  • India became the surrogacy capital of the world with the legalisation of commercial surrogacy in 2002.
  • Surrogacy in India is estimated to be a 2.3-billion-dollar industry that has grown phenomenally in the past two decades.
  • Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016, […] bans surrogacy for foreigners and also bans commercial surrogacy in India.

Surrogacy and commodification of a woman’s body

Both patriarchy and the market have encouraged commodification of women’s bodies, and with the advent of assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs), this has become even more visible. New reproductive technologies (NRTs) and ART have also brought about a new dimension to reproduction that separates sex from pregnancy.

The earlier understanding of sex/intercourse as the only way leading to reproduction is being increasingly questioned.

Both medicine and the market, through surrogacy, have further deepened the exercise of power and control over women’s bodies, particularly their reproductive capacity.

The ‘business’ of surrogacy in India: How is surrogacy marketed in India?

  • For example, the leaflet of a fertility centre in Hyderabad says, ‘Life deserves the best…we try to fulfill your need for a Child’.
  • One hospital in Mumbai claims, ‘A thousand already born…thousand more to be.’
  • The website of a fertility clinic in Bangalore says, ‘Is your longing for a child unfulfilled? Your search ends here.’
  • One clinic in Delhi states their motto is ‘helping families complete’.
  • NOVA IVI fertility clinic, which has branches across the country, has taglines like ‘NOVA IVI is no fairytale, it is a dream come true’; and ‘Restoring hope in couples’.
  • One clinic in Hyderabad claims, ‘We have 75% success rate during summers too!’ (as summer is not an ideal season for embryo implantation).

In a desperate pursuit for one’s own biological child, couples go doctor-shopping from one clinic to another.

Concerns, stigma and limitations—

  • Surrogate mothers not only fight with the larger society against the stigma attached to surrogacy, and with the clinics where they are under ‘house arrest’. 
  • Accepting to become surrogates comes at a price for these women who have to negotiate stigma, separation from family, guilt and the side effects to health that come with an IVF pregnancy. 
  • There is also an expectation from the doctors and the commissioning couple about behaving like a ‘perfect mother-worker’, which means nurturing no emotional bonds with the foetus. 
  • The compensation amounts that the surrogates receive for surrogacy are not permanent life-changing amounts for them. 
  • The reproductive rights of the surrogates—which may include the decision to abort the child, to keep the child if diagnosed with any disease and whether to go for a vaginal delivery or a caesarian section—are all taken away from them. 
  • They have no decision-making powers over the pregnancy and are reduced to just being baby-production machines. 
  • Any criticism of surrogacy is countered by invoking the stereotypical images of motherhood, parenthood and family. 
  • The commodification of a woman’s body has been further enabled with developments in ART. 
  • The medicalisation procedures that ART prescribes can have serious health implications for both the couple and the surrogate that are often not talked about by the fertility industry.


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