Exploitation

I’m reading this morning about the surrogacy baby factories in India in the current issue of Time magazine. I personally know of more than one family who has acquired their child using surrogacy. I’m not a fan. Learning about the in utero mother baby bond has done it for me. Separating the baby from its gestational mother creates trauma in the child.

Both India and Africa are hot beds in the trade of women’s bodies to create babies for their intended families. There is also surrogacy in the United States. Always it is a matter of poverty and money.

One poor woman writes – she went to the clinic to live out her pregnancy because she was worried that being pregnant while divorced would subject her to malicious rumors. “If I tell anyone, they think that I am going to give away my own child. They don’t understand that I am simply giving my womb on rent.” Still, as far as that baby in her womb is concerned – it IS her own child.

I do have sympathy and compassion for the poor women who turn to surrogacy as their only method of creating revenue. This is a difficult situation. Without a doubt, commercial surrogacy takes advantage of low income women. I do not believe that making only Altruistic Surrogacy legal is the answer as it does not address the poverty that drives woman to provide their wombs in service to prospective parents. It will likely only drive the practice underground. A 9 month long commitment is a huge demand on any woman’s life.

Legal protection is needed – for both the surrogates and the intended parents. There needs to be medical insurance for the surrogates and a minimum amount of compensation for the time they are devoting. Don’t get me wrong – I still do not favor surrogacy. However, I am being realistic about the financial circumstances that drive a woman to agree to this. Banning the procedure will not work any better than it has worked for banning alcohol or illicit drugs. One needs to look at the source of what is motivating the behavior – poverty and desperation.

Sital Kalantry is a clinical professor at Cornell Law School and has written extensively about surrogacy. She worries about the lack of informed consent and notes that many of the women are unable to read the contracts, which are written in English, and they sign them using a thumbprint. The clinic highlighted in the Time magazine article has a C-Section rate of 70%. It probably is safer for the fetus than a vaginal birth but it is definitely more convenient for the doctor (your blog author raises her hand that she has had 2 C-Sections – these were said to avoid transmission of the hepC virus she co-exists with). And it is more convenient for the intended parents because they know when to pick up their baby.

A ban on commercial surrogacy in India will only send the practice underground. The conditions for the surrogates will be worse and it will still be in effect unregulated. Underground the surrogates will have no protections whatsoever. An example is China – despite commercial surrogacy being banned there – it is estimated that more than 10,000 children a year are still being born through that process.

You can read the entire Time magazine article here – India’s Ban on Commercial Surrogacy.

How To Go About Transitioning

So here’s the background and the story –

I am the foster parent for two young children (ages 2 and 3) throughout the last year and a half. Termination of parental rights is set for April. I have a good relationship with their mother and I’m able to facilitate her visits with the kids even though the agency would say no (don’t tell anyone). Their fathers are not in the picture of their own choosing. Their mom now lives about an hour from me. She is originally from California and I’m in Kansas. Their mom has family (an aunt) in California who would take the children in, if the mom’s rights are terminated. This aunt tried to obtain possession of the children, when they were first taken into foster care. At that time the goal was reunification with their mom. Therefore, the agency didn’t want to move them that far away from their mom.

Their mom wants to do whatever is best for her kids and has said she is fine with them living either with me or with the aunt, if she can’t get custody of her children. So here’s my question, would the kids be better off living with their biological family, even though they’ve never met their aunt and would have to move away from their mom or with me, the place they know as home currently and where they can still be around their mom?

I love them and would definitely keep them – if I need to – but I don’t want to do that, if it is in any way putting myself above them. They have had a lot of trauma, from being moved around a lot in foster care, before they came to me and they really struggle with being away from me, even for short periods. That has always made me worry about them with regard to having to move again, but I’ve thought maybe I could go with them and stay in California for a week or so, if they do move and we could do a transition – to make this change less of a traumatic issue. Is that enough? Also, they are bi-racial and I am mostly white. Though one does have Native American and I do as well, they are dark skinned, where as I am not.

 I have heard through the caseworker that the aunt has adopted other children within her family – so I’m going on the assumption that it’s a stable home with some trauma background.

Another woman, who is both an adoptive and a foster parent replies –

Long term, yes, it will be better for them to be with their family. Genetic and racial mirrors are both vitally important. They are very little, so while it may be a hard transition, they will be okay. I would see if you can start video chats with the family in California now, so that the kids can get familiar with them. But absolutely, you need to make the child welfare workers aware that you want the aunt to adopt. They need to start the ICPC process now – if this hasn’t happened already because it can take several months to complete. And the sooner these kids can get to the aunt the better.

The ICPC is The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children. The purpose of ICPC is to ensure that children placed out of their home state receive the same protections and services that would be provided if they remained in their home state.