"My husband lost his limbs working in the factory," Jyoti Dave, a surrogate mother in India, told Reuters. "We could not manage even a meal a day. That is when I decided to rent out my womb."
Commercial surrogacy is nothing new. In the U.S., where it is legal in many states, companies such as Growing Generations offer up to US$25,000 to surrogates while charging couples between US$30,000 and US$45,000 per child.
Today rent-a-womb has gone international. Its headquarters
are in India, where surrogate mothers can earn US$5,000 to US$7,000 per birth — income equivalent to a decade's worth of a rural wages for a woman.
These surrogates offer their services to an international clientele hailing from Italy, Singapore, Sweden and other wealthy countries. Most of these couples turn to surrogacy after multiple failed in-vitro fertilizations or repeated miscarriages. It's no surprise India appeals to medical tourists; it offers affordable service, highly qualified doctors, and fewer legal hurdles than found in other countries.
Boston Globe columnist Ellen Goodman is among critics of commercial surrogacy who are disturbed by the idea of the human body as a commodity. Others are uneasy about the ability of the wealthy to essentially rent wombs from the poor.
Many participants in international surrogacy, however, argue that they are helping those in financial desperation. "How else will us uneducated women earn this kind of money," one surrogate mother explained to Christian Science Monitor, "without doing anything immoral?"