November 7th 2015

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Machines getting too clever for our good

CANBERRA OBSERVED Labor on the offensive against all argument

EDITORIAL El Niño caps tragic results of water deregulation

LIFE ISSUES Altruistic surrogacy leads to baby trafficking

CLIMATE CHANGE U.S., EU have hot air in store for climate gabfest

FAMILY AND SOCIETY Best marriage research backs Church's teaching

FAMILY AND SOCIETY Symptoms of a civilisation in crisis

THE DRUGS DEBATE An introduction to navigating the "ice" age

RELIGION IN RUSSIA Soloviev and the great vision for religious unity

PUBLIC POLICY Asia-Pacific conference sees through drug push

CINEMA Martian botanist left to cultivate his garden: The Martian

BOOK REVIEW Progress in the dock

BOOK REVIEW ASIO in the early years


Bishops being prosecuted for supporting man+woman marriage Here is what you can do

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Altruistic surrogacy leads to baby trafficking

by Patrick J. Byrne

News Weekly, November 7, 2015

Poor women in India are being paid to produce children for wealthy Westerners. In some cases, they are impregnated with two human embryos, with the second baby destined for the black market.

Family Court Chief Justice

Diana Bryant, left, and Federal

Circuit Court Chief Judge John Pascoe.


Commissioning couples from the United States and the Europe have been using Indian surrogacy agencies because they are up to six times cheaper than Western alternatives.

Further, poor, illiterate surrogate mothers are less likely to take legal action should they want to keep the child, or should the surrogacy agencies fail to pay them adequately, or should they suffer ongoing medical problems.

Illiterate women signing contracts

The Swedish Women’s Lobby (SWL), a politically and religiously independent umbrella group for women’s organisations in Sweden, is opposed to all forms of surrogacy.[1]

Although most European nations don’t allow surrogacy, the SWL points out that the experience from countries where altruistic surrogacy is legal – such as Great Britain, the Netherlands and the United States – shows that when altruistic surrogacy has been legalised, commercialisation has ensued.

The SWL says it is very hard to ensure that no money or bribes have been involved or that no undue pressure has been exerted.

To speak of free will and a woman’s choice in these contexts is highly problematic. A study of surrogate mothers in Anand, India, revealed that 50 per cent were illiterate and that many could not read the contracts that they were signing. Signing a contract means signing away the right to one’s own body.

In a recent episode of the documentary, Outsourcing Embryos, journalist Gianna Toboni investigated the booming surrogacy market in India.

Women are routinely recruited from slums and made to sign contracts they can’t read, before spending a year living in a facility.

Once the baby is born – via caesarean section so that doctors can maximize births per day – the surrogate is sent home, often without the full compensation she was promised.[2]

Spare babies

Worse still, commercial surrogacy has led to a black market for babies.

Jeff Schaffer, from the U.S. Alliance Defending Freedom, recently investigated the human trafficking of surrogate babies on the black market.[3]

He asked: where do the “spare” babies come from?

“First, some clients don’t show up to retrieve the child they ordered.

“Second, and more centrally, it is standard operating procedure in gestational surrogacy transactions for doctors to implant more than one embryo in the surrogate(s) to elevate the likelihood that an embryo will ‘take’ and endure to viability. Manufacturing efficiency is advanced by front-loading embryo implantation rather than through successive single-implant attempts.”

Schaffer says that the very nature of surrogacy leads to a black market in babies and human trafficking.

He says the surrogacy industry decouples child creation from conjugal relations, separates gestation from enduring motherhood and makes biological ties irrelevant to legal child custody.

“Fragmenting persons, parts, and relations – submitting each to commercial negotiation – is its entrepreneurial essence.

“Surrogacy allows the creation of children for sale. If they can be sold they are treated as commodities.”

This indicates that the “black market in baby sales is a predictable shadow enterprise of foreign surrogacy markets. The open question is how long it will remain a back-alley economy. Considering the form and function of the multibillion-dollar child production industry, and the public shrug at its operation, the wonder may be that direct infant sales are still illegal.”

He says that banning infant peddling doesn’t fit with the reproduction industry, whose operations impel that phenomenon to begin with.

Following recent surrogacy scandals in some emerging nations, Nepal has suspended commercial surrogacy and Thailand has banned foreigners from hiring surrogate mothers. India is considering the issue.

A bill being considered by the Indian Government would ban surrogacy tourism – foreigners travelling to India to hire surrogate mothers. However, the bill would allow single women to act as surrogates. Until now, only married women could be surrogate mothers.[4]

As the surrogacy industry grows, in Australia there have been calls to legalise commercial surrogacy.

Last year, Family Court Chief Justice Diana Bryant and Federal Circuit Court Chief Judge John Pascoe called for the legalisation of commercial surrogacy, while applying criminal sanctions to couples who paid for surrogacy overseas and tightening visa rules to prevent babies being brought into the country.[5]

There is a sharp juxtaposition between the artificial reproductive industry’s push to legalise commercial surrogacy and the growing movement to have all surrogacy banned.

As Jeff Schaffer says: “In time, we will either accede to infant sales (benevolently regulated), or shut down the manufacturing enterprise whose logic encompasses them.”



[1]Swedish feminist group opposes surrogacy”, Aleteia, October 28, 2014.

[2]Inside the dark realities of the international surrogacy industry”, The Cut, April 3, 2015.

[3]Babies for sale, in a market near you”, The Federalist, October 6, 2015.

[4]Draft bill bans foreigners from hiring surrogates in India”, Tribune News Service, October 22, 2015.

[5]We’ve lost our moral compass”, The Australian, August 21, 2014.

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