Birthing A Market: A Study on Commercial Surrogacy


2012 | Sama

This study focuses on commercial surrogacy-the practice of gestating a child for another couple or for an individual through the use of Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ARTs) and in return for remuneration.  ARTs are a group of technologies, that assist in conception or in the carrying of pregnancy to term and have proliferated unchecked, becoming a veritable ‘fertility industry’.  They must be seen as part of an expanding medical market and medical tourism industry.  Within this, surrogacy, particularly commercial surrogacy, has drawn much attention and raised several question.  It is in this context, that Sama undertook a study as a way of broadening its engagement with ARTs, reproductive health, autonomy and rights.

Birthing A Market is based on a multi-sited qualitative study that Sama undertook, in which doctors, medical tourism and surrogacy agents as well as surrogates were interviewed in Delhi and Punjab during December 2011-April 2012.  In order to understand the socio-economic background of women who become surrogates, the study documents their profile in terms of class, caste, religion, marital status, age and income.  The study undertakes a close examination of the process involved in a surrogacy arrangement.  It focuses on ways in which the surrogates enter the industry; the medical procedures that surrogates are subjected to; relinquishment of the child by the surrogate and handing over to commissioning parents; and, the remuneration transaction involved in surrogacy arrangements.  Through the interviews with doctors, agents and surrogates themselves the study contextualises surrogacy in broader debates around women’s work and reproductive labour and legal regulatory framework on surrogacy.  The ideological factors that drive the surrogacy industry – including the stigma of infertility; interplay of ‘natural’ and ‘biological’ motherhood that legitimise surrogacy using IVF in particular ways; and, the emerging market for reproductive technologies have also been critically analysed.

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