Fertility tourism: Couples desperate for a baby heading overseas

NZ Herald 15 April 2014
The Ashcrofts were the first New Zealand couple to take advantage of commercial surrogacy laws in India, which is only one of a handful of countries that allow surrogates to be paid. As a result of the 2002 law, lower costs, increasing medical infrastructure and the availability of surrogates, the country has emerged as a hotspot for this type of fertility tourism. International surrogacy, also legal in the United States, Thailand, the Ukraine and at least one state in Mexico, is a growing trend for couples and singles, both gay and straight, seeking ways to overcome the hurdles biological, technological, financial, and legal of having children. The subject was the hot topic at the fifth Congress of the Asia Pacific Initiative on Reproduction (ASPIRE Conference) in Brisbane this month. Closer to home members of the Law Society heard presentations from fertility specialists on the issue last week. Fertility Associates group operations manager Dr John Peek says New Zealand had always aligned itself ethically with European standards but with the amount of reproductive technology exploding in Asia it could no longer be ignored. “There’s going to be a lot more reproductive tourism in this part of the world,” Dr Peek says.

Using a surrogate

Surrogacy is where a woman, who cannot carry a baby, uses another woman to bear the child. An embryo, created using IVF, is transferred to the surrogate. Commercial surrogacy, where women are paid to carry and deliver someone else’s baby, is only available in a handful of countries including the US, Thailand and India. Surrogacy is available in NZ but the time and cost to gain ethics committee approval, and the limited number of surrogates, mean some parents choose to pay an overseas surrogate. India has become a hot spot for this type of fertility tourism, thought to generate the country $400 million a year. About 3000 clinics offer surrogacy services and 2000 foreign babies are born annually in India to surrogates. Five couples from New Zealand have pursued surrogacy in India, four with success while the other is still at the IVF treatment stage. The costs, in the tens of thousands of dollars, vary considerably but India and Thailand are cheaper than the US. In 2011-2012, there were eight applications for surrogacy in New Zealand, seven of which were approved. Between 2005 and 2011, surrogacy applications approved by NZ’s ethics committee resulted in 33 births.

The baby makers: Critics push for regulation of India’s booming surrogacy industry
ABC News 15 April 2014
The calls come as increasing numbers of foreigners, including many Australians, pay thousands of dollars to Indian surrogacy centres to fulfil their need to have children.

The industry has been criticised for operating in a regulatory vacuum, and while there are some rules for people who take the journey to India, it is still a minefield for many unsuspecting parents.

Author and critic Kishwar Desai has strong reservations about the lack of legal oversight and what it means for the women who rent out their wombs.

“We’re treating these women like animals, like you would do with cattle … so I think that is something we need to be very careful about,” she said.

“It’s not the numbers of the women who die – and indeed we may not even know about them because a lot of the clinics are operating without any regulation, without any rules, without any scrutinies – we may not even hear about them. The women may be allowed to just go home and die there.”