Also described as Reproductive Tourism, more frequently couples who struggle with an infertility diagnosis are crossing the “big pond” to accomplish their dream of becoming parents. Countries like India and Thailand have risen as frontrunners in the Reproductive Tourism industry.
Since my partner and I are currently in the process of growing our family together using a surrogate stateside, I found myself researching the reasoning behind the desire for others to utilize the Reproductive Tourism route, to sleuth out the advantages and disadvantages if you will. At first glance, without input from a reputable agency, I would have definitely shied away from using a surrogate internationally. Articles that shed light on how women are chosen, including forced surrogacy by family members who only see dollar signs, and the fact many of the surrogates are under educated, and are often separated from their families for the entire nine month process are among some the reasons that I became alarmed with the process.
When I read articles and blogs that highlighted the practice that some international clinics are performing, such as: transferring as many as 5 embryos per transfer, selective reduction without prior consent or knowledge from Intended Parents or Surrogate (so depending on your stance on when life begins, this could present an issue moving forward), and grossly underpaying surrogates, I needed answers. I wanted to let others know that while yes, some clinics exploit the surrogates and the IVF process, with research and guidance from a reputable and trusted US Surrogate and Egg Donation agency, Reproductive Tourism can be a very viable option.
So to quell my worry, even though I was not considering Reproductive Tourism as an option for us, but felt the need to draw attention to the mostly very unregulated process, I spoke with Eloise Drane, Founder of Family Inceptions located in Atlanta, Georgia. This is the only agency that I am aware of that works both domestically and internationally, however there may be others.
In speaking with Eloise Drane I was comforted to learn that she does understand the risk of “Exploiting the Exploited,” she partners with only clinics that closely adhere to US guidelines throughout the process. In most cases, surrogates are not “detained” for the term of the pregnancy, although there is an option for housing, should the surrogate choose. In this scenario, surrogates are provided meals and around the clock medical care to alleviate any concern from the Intended Parents that the surrogate is providing the best environment for their unborn child. Understandable since many surrogates live in what many of us in the US would call “…less than favorable conditions.”
She further explained that the clinics she partners with require a psychological exam of both the surrogate, and the surrogate’s husband before they can be selected as a surrogate. And since many of the Surrogates are under educated, the clinics maintain that all contracts are completely explained and understood to ensure that there is full disclosure of the process and what is expected from a surrogate, there is no “forced surrogacy,” reduced pay to a surrogate or unexplained selective reduction (unless there is a medical requirement for such, and only then with permission).
Going through our own surrogacy process, we have firsthand knowledge of the expense associated with growing our family. Cost can be as high as $100,000 to $120,000 in the United States. We also know approximately what percentage of the cost is provided to the surrogate; on average between 50-75% of the fee is provided to the surrogate. That being said, I found that surrogates in the Reproductive Tourism are often underpaid, with as little as $2,500 US dollars, of the average cost of $30,000 being offered to the surrogate. These women have the potential to be exploited simply for their ability to successfully carry a child to term. Again, I turned to Eloise Drane of Family Inceptions to ease my mind and understand and respect the process and fees that accompany Reproductive Tourism.
Eloise Drane stated, “…with the clinics that I am affiliated with in Reproductive Tourism, typically the surrogates do receive 25-30% of the fee. And although that may seem unfair, understanding what the $30,000 includes, it becomes apparent that the fee is representative of what surrogates in the US are afforded.” As in the US, there are many fees associated with surrogacy; legal, IVF, egg donation, and birth. But unlike the US where these fees are “add-ons,” if you will, in Reproductive Tourism, where the cost is much more affordable, these fees are all paid from the $30,000 (on average) price tag. So although it seems that the surrogates are receiving substantially less than their US counterparts, in reality, their compensation is probably equal to, or even greater than the US. It is a “hard pill to swallow” regarding cost in the US versus Internationally at a glance, but understanding that “out sourcing” this process where families live on a very minimum fraction of what US families do, they are compensated fairly, without the exploitation. That is, if you choose a US surrogacy and egg donation agency that has chosen to ONLY partner with clinics that, as closely as possible, adhere to US standards and guidelines.
Please, don’t go blindly into Reproductive Tourism, or circumvent the US agency because of money. Understand that using an agency like Family Inceptions International, surrogates, who are mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters are being protected and taken care of, both financially and medically throughout the process. Help curtail the actions of some clinics that use whatever means possible to ensure a live birth, all in the name of the all-powerful dollar. Help protect the surrogates, those who understand that providing Intended Parents who may otherwise be childless, the gift of life, a child, are not exploited, but are giving of themselves and not only seeking financial gain but joy in adding to YOUR family.
Disclaimer: I acknowledge that I am not, nor have I ever been an expert on Surrogacy options and my opinions are strictly that, opinions. Please feel free to question and research any aspect of the contents of this article.
By: Richard Bradley