International Surrogacy: “The Wild, Wild West of Medicine”

surrogacyA recent article in the Wall Street Journal starts out talking about a pregnant surrogate mother from Bulgaria in a hospital on the Greek island of Crete planning to deliver a baby whose biological mother is an anonymous European egg donor and whose father is Italian.

The arrangement is being coordinated by PlanetHospital, which WSJ describes as “a California company that searches the globe to find the components for its business line. The business, in this case, is creating babies.”

Hence the article’s title, “Assembling the Global Baby.”

The Ever Increasing Commoditization of Children

CEO, Rudy Rupak boasts that PlanetHospital’s we-do-it-all approach to surrogacy can be likened to a “concierge service.” The company concentrates on overseas surrogacy for various reasons, chief among them cost (surrogacy in the U.S. can cost up to $200,000; PlanetHospital, by contrast, charges from $32,000 to $68,000):

PlanetHospital’s most affordable package, the “India bundle,” buys an egg donor, four embryo transfers into four separate surrogate mothers, room and board for the surrogate, and a car and driver for the parents-to-be when they travel to India to pick up the baby.

The “bundle” language makes it sound a bit like ordering an Extra Value Meal, don’t you think?

There are other options as well:

Pricier packages add services like splitting eggs from the same donor to fertilize with different sperm, so children of gay couples can share a genetic mother. In Panama, twins cost an extra $5,000; for another $6,500 you can choose a child’s gender.

You can see why Arthur Caplan, the director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Bioethics, refers to international surrogacy as the “wild, wild west of medicine”:

Unlike traditional adoption, there is relatively little vetting of would-be parents either by agencies like PlanetHospital, regulators or clinics. There are also fewer restrictions, such as strict age limits, on who can participate.

From Abortion to “Reduction”

Later in the article we learn about one of the “ethical complexities” that sometimes rears its head as the surrogacy process runs its course:

Surrogacy’s complexity can give rise to extraordinarily difficult decisions, such as whether or not to abort. This can happen because clinics sometimes implant multiple embryos into multiple surrogates to improve the odds: If one miscarries, there are still viable pregnancies. However, if several implants successfully lead to pregnancy, clients face ending up with not just one or two children, but many.

Mike Aki and his husband [sic], a Massachusetts couple, confronted this question. The couple planned on having two children. But their two surrogate mothers in India each became pregnant with twins.

At 12 weeks into the pregnancies, Mr. Aki and his husband decided to abort two of the fetuses, one from each woman. It was a very painful call to make, Mr. Aki says. “You start thinking to yourself, ‘Oh, my god, am I killing this child?'”

He didn’t think of his decision as an abortion, but as a “reduction,” he says. “You’re reducing the pregnancies to make sure you have a greater chance of healthy children,” Mr. Aki says.

Ah, yes — eugenics.

For some time, abortions of children of multiple pregnancies have been referred to as “reductions” (“selective reduction” and “multifetal pregnancy reduction” are the two most common euphemisms for abortion in such cases), and although the term “multifetal” does cover twins, the term most often refers three (or more) babies in a pregnancy.

Indeed, this is the first time I can recall seeing the language of “reduction” being used to describe an abortion of a twin. One wonders how long it will be before the “pro-choice” movement starts referring to all abortions as mere “reductions”.

What is written here scarcely scratches the surface of this eye-opening article, which should be read in its entirety.

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