March 20th, 2023
Week Nine: Surrogacy
In class, we have discussed how many people, regardless of religion or not, are skeptical about reproductive technologies. Technology is definitely used during the surrogate process–but so is another human’s whole body for nine months–which is why I feel like it carries more pressure in regard to maintaining ethical practices. I did some light research about surrogacy after watching the film we watched in class, Made in India, and I discovered that there are two types of surrogacy: gestational and traditional. In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate undergoes intrauterine insemination but uses her own eggs. In gestational surrogacy (for a heteronormative couple), the mother’s eggs are retrieved and the father’s sperm is retrieved, and an embryo is made in a lab. A few of these embryos are then implanted into the surrogate until they give birth. There were a lot of themes present in this film that touched on different topics we discussed previous to the semester and left all of us with so many questions, including myself.
After watching the film, it left many people in the room with mixed emotions–uncomfortable, upset, and even impartial. One question that we discussed at length was debating if the work itself was exploitative. Lisa and Brian knew that they could not afford these services in the US, so they outsourced to India where they could try eight to nine attempts of trying to get pregnant there for the cost of one attempt at home. On the other hand, Aasia admits that she is going through the process of being a surrogate because her poverty and illiteracy limit the work that she can do to make money for her family. This imbalance of power is concerning ethically and was something that made me personally uncomfortable. Last week we discussed how the ‘gift of life’ should be an altruistic and spiritual act in order for it to be valued and ethical. If someone feels as though they are obligated to complete the deed, it is not not considered to be altruistic, or within Buddist values. In this case, Aasia felt somewhat obligated to preform this duty due to her circumstances. She literally did give the “gift of life’ but not in an altruistic fashion. The question that I still do not have the answer to is–is this exploitative if people are willing to do these jobs for less money, and where do we draw the line?
Another ethical issue that arose for me while watching the film was the lack of informed consent it appeared Aasia gave throughout the whole process. Due to cultural normalities, Aasia needed her husband’s signature to proceed further with the process of becoming a surrogate. He was not supportive of the idea of his wife ‘being impregnated by another person’, which is similar rhetoric that we saw in Inhorn’s, He Won’t be My Son. He did not feel that it was right that another man’s ‘seed’ was going to be inside of his wife, but she proceeded anyways with the help of he sister-in-law. Aasia then lied to her husband about the process to receive his signature–which I am not convinced that she truly understood herself anyways–and went forward with the implantation. Once he realized she was pregnant, he was disapproving but mentioned that they would not get rid of the child because that would be a sin; however, he did not want her to go through this process again. When asked about the process initially, Aasia claimed that she was told that she would be given medicine that would somehow make her pregnant. She was very scared when she realized she was pregnant with twins, something that is common with these treatments, which also makes me believe that she was not very informed about each of the processes.
Near the end of the film, Aasia was held at the hospital for a few days due to an emergency C-section, and wished to get paid more. The couple noted that they were willing to pay her a little more, but did not have the money she was asking for. Throughout the film, it was evident that there was little to no representation of surrogates when it came to making decisions. What was particularly jarring to me, was at the end of the film where they showed Rudy, the third-party business man, and a doctor at this conference about procreative/medical tourism, but there was nobody there representing the voices of the surrogates. I was curious about if there were any updates on the matter since the film was from over ten years ago, and so I did some research and had some interesting findings.
There are two new acts–the Surrogacy Act and the Assisted Reproductive Technology Act. The Surrogacy Act banned commercial surrogacy, meaning that it could only be allowed in “cases of altruism” from a relative who is already a mother. This act moreso aligns with the values and ideals we read about last week, but now there is a question of if a feeling of obligation blurs the altruism. The surrogates are not allowed to receive any money and ART can only be used for Indian heteronormative couples or single women who are widowed or divorced. The ART act established that there will be a national registry to oversee clinics and banks to regulate the conditions of usage. There has been backlash about the lack of inclusion with who can benefit from ART in India–only infertile indian heteronormative couples–and why can’t the women be paid for their labor. These were put in place with the goal of preventing exploitation, but some women are upset about how it affected their job opportunities. Is there a right way to handle this?
https://reproductiverights.org/assisted-reproduction-and-surrogacy-in-india/ https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/surrogacy-act-is-a-law-with-a-flaw-heres-why/a rticleshow/95115675.cms