Baby Mills: Surrogacy gone wrong

Baby mill 4 cropfertilized human eggThe Vice series on HBO featured a story about gestational surrogacy (in vitro fertilization of an embryo) a couple of weeks ago. The segment entitled Outsourcing Embryos, reported by Journalist Gianna Toboni, is an insightful investigation of the burgeoning surrogacy industry in India. Industry may seem to be an inappropriate word to use in connection with childbirth, but in this case it is entirely appropriate.

An excerpt from an article in Daily Mail explains the crux of the situation:

During her time spent undercover posing as one of these people, Gianna was informed that, in order to maximize profits and ensure a final product, doctors are encouraged to implant multiple embryos in surrogates, which can lead to the surrogate having to abort one of the fetuses or give birth to multiple babies.
And if an ‘extra’ baby is born, it isn’t necessarily going home with its genetic parents. There are also issues with couples never making it to India to claim their children for whatever reasons, meaning that the newborn baby is left without a parent.

8 cell embryoIf one were creating a super villain for a story, the likely life of an ‘extra’ baby would be a perfect backdrop. A baby whose American parents were unaware of her or his existence, or who was left behind because her or his parents only paid for the birth of one baby, is a perfect candidate for development of intense, overarching, subliminal anger after learning about their history. Story line aside, the fact is that this extra baby circumstance just should not happen.

There is one reported case of parents who intentionally did not claim their child. Twins were born from a surrogate in India. The parents said they could not afford both children and claimed only one child – “The husband approached the Department of Immigration in December 2012, saying that he and his wife only wanted to take the baby girl back home, explaining to officials “they could not afford to support both children…. He also stated that they already had a boy and wanted to take the girl to complete their family.” In situations like this, one wonders which of the two babies is worse-off.

After reading more about gestational surrogacy, I learned that babies could be left behind or “stateless” even when the parents were diligent. The U.S. Department of State has two rules which can affect this –

A CRBA certifies that a child born abroad is a U.S. citizen. A CRBA [Consular Report of Birth Abroad of an American Citizen] does not determine the identity of the child’s legal parents. Therefore, in general, the name/s listed on the CRBA is/are the U.S. citizen parent/s with a biological connection to the child. A second parent may be listed on the CRBA if the second parent demonstrates a legal parental relationship to the child under local law; the CRBA does not, however, serve as a record of that individual’s status….

The Department is aware of cases where foreign fertility clinics have substituted alternate donor sperm and eggs for the U.S. parents’ genetic material, either purposefully when the planned genetic material turned out not to be viable or through accidental laboratory errors. The intended parents learned of these undisclosed switches only when the parents obtained DNA tests after the child’s birth, as part of the process of documenting the child’s citizenship for the purposes of obtaining a U.S. passport. Such situations can have the unfortunate consequence of leaving a child stateless or otherwise unable to leave the country of birth.

Source: Legal Considerations. Travel.State.Gov.

Parents who are considering surrogacy in a foreign country should heed the possible outcome. The business of gestational surrogacy has already crossed the line into de-humanization and human trafficking.

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