The problems with paying women to have your baby

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The problems with paying women to have your baby

By Mari Marcel Thekaekara


Harsha K R under a Creative Commons Licence

An Indian surrogate mother had a baby for Australian parents. The parents didn’t want the baby. People in Australia are worried about this. In India life is cheap. In a country of over one billion people no one is interested in one more baby born, abandoned or dead. The baby was left with the Indian birth mother because the Australian parents wanted just one child and not twins.

Reports say that they had one child back home, so they chose one of the twins and left the other.The Australian High Commission in India said the story is true but said they could do nothing. They tried talking to the parents but surrogacy is a personal matter. It’s something new with few laws. The High Commission could only give a passport for one child, which the parents asked for. It could not legally make them take the other twin. The Indian government could not make them take the other twin. So here is the terrible story of one little Australian baby left behind with a mother who doesn’t want it. Happily the baby was quickly adopted by an Indian couple. People want light-skinned babies in India and not babies with dark skins.

Activists have explained again and again that the laws to protect surrogate mothers and babies in India are not good enough. The activists are using this story to try to get some good laws. So are the Australian authorities. But what does “good” mean? Of course, the women who rent out their wombs for money are poor and weak. It is a big business now – very poor women having babies for rich women who can’t or won’t do it themselves. I am not criticising women who really want to have babies themselves.

Is surrogacy worse than being a sex worker? Criticising doesn’t help. It is impossible to understand the stress couples who want a child of their own may have. It is impossible to really feel for them, if we do not have the same problem.

But we need to understand and make laws to stop the suffering of women who rent out their wombs in their village or small town because they need money. It pays far more than most other work. It is easy to see greedy husbands and in-laws using it to make money. Women’s bodies are worth less than nothing in far too many parts of India. So no one worries about the dangers to a woman’s health through having many children.

John Pascoe is an Australian Federal Circuit Court Chief Judge. He has asked for a national enquiry into international surrogacy. He thinks international surrogacy is the new kind of human trafficking and that there are enough examples to believe that people are paying women to have their children with no protections for the children or for the surrogate mothers.

With more parents finding it difficult to have children in the world, I think this is a problem which more and more people are starting to understand. Western women find it cheaper to have surrogate babies in India or other poor countries. And rich Indian women are wanting to have surrogate babies, too. The market will get bigger. The question is: how can we be sure that it is fair for the surrogate mothers, the parents who pay, and the babies.

NOW READ THE ORIGINAL: (This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed.)