Friday, 9 October 2009

OMG, where has "outsourcing" gone ?

Outsourcing is a big and growing industry, in which India, and now China have major stakes. What started off as IT outsourcing quickly spread to a number of traditional areas – call centres, finance, HR, etc and then to exotic areas – children’s homework, tutions and the like.

I have a passing acquaintance with this industry but I had not even dreamt of the possibility of surrogate child bearing as an industry. I read this report completely gob smacked with a mouth wide open.

It’s a longish report, but for those not intending to read the whole article, the “industry” goes like this – if a couple cannot have a child because the lady is unable to conceive for whatever reason , there are a number of options open to them. They can get a donor egg or use the lady’s own egg, The sperm can be from a donor or from the husband. A surrogate is hired and the in vitro fertilized egg is implanted in the womb of the surrogate who bears the child. There is, obviously, a cash consideration for the surrogate. Apparently this “industry” is now moving offshore. And no prizes for guessing which is the leading offshore destination, by far. India. Ok its still very tiny, but it has started.

I am in a whirl. This is one of those devilishly difficult issues. Who is to say what is right or wrong ? There are all sorts of ethical and moral dimensions to this. Complicated by the fact that this will be seen very differently in different cultures. And if you put off shoring into this, with its big religious and cultural differences, it becomes mind bogglingly complicated. And then you add the possibility of exploitation of an economically poor Indian woman, it just becomes impossible to take any stand at all.

Is it right to allow individual freedom of choice in this ? Or is it right for society to draw a line on what is OK and what is not OK ?

I understand the topic of surrogates is also live amongst serials on Indian TV. I am told Jogula in Kannada and Arasi in Tamil, have this as a theme. Of course, I have no access to any of them, as I am required by the laws of the country I live in to only watch the Chinese premier being received by the North Korean president.

For what it is worth, I will state my point of view. I believe using a surrogate is morally wrong. And off shoring of surrogates is doubly wrong. This should not become an outsourcing business.


  1. On one hand, "as one of the woman syas I rather have a baby than sell a kidbey" the money problems of the poor are great as is in some of the middle class cases. $10,000 is huge for them. But the problem begins when it becomes a matter of fact thing -"oh you want some money, why do you go for the surrogacy ya?" That sounds scary!! It is indeed a moral dilemna ...

  2. i read this too.. actually watched a documentary on TV where this is booming business in some lesser known south indian districts.. the macabre side to this story is that despite the whole act being morally questionable, the surrogate mothers are taken for a ride.. they are promised a said amount for the task and once complete they are doled out just a fraction of what is promised, also there is this issue of the surrogate mother getting emotionally involved with the child, she knows is not hers all along, but still grew within her.. so at the end of it all, the documentary exposed what emotional wrecks the ladies become..
    like cookie says, this is a scary prospect..

  3. i meant in the above lines 'in addition to', in the place of 'despite'

  4. This is indeed a sad story to know about. Economically poor are exposed to modernity thro' various medium and these kind of lucurative offers will drive crazy among those who are desparate for some money. Emotions will take a back seat when they get into such deals but towards the end when they actually undergo the motherhood, it may connect to the real emotion....

  5. This is an emotional issue-emotion of both parties involved. Emotion and business don't get along well, often, Ramesh!
    But exploitation does happen, even in kidney transplantations!There the pay is for an organ, here the pay is for emotion, which often is unequable!

  6. @thoughtful train - I don't buy the money argument thoughtful train - is doing ANYTHING acceptable to get out of poverty ? Organ donation is one thing, but a child involves another life and huge emotions? You are right, its a scary thought of where it can lead to - I just cannot even remotely comprehend mothers selling their children as happens sometimes.

    @AJCL - Dead right. That's how I also felt. If a lady carries a child for nine months, surely there must be emotions involved and its difficult to imagine that it can be a pure commercial transaction for the surrogate.

  7. @Connecter - Thanks for visiting and your comment. Yes, there is some sadness because of the economic exploitation. But even if there wasn't - lets assume that the surrogate wasn't doing it to escape from poverty, it is still an issue that abounds with moral dilemmas.

    @athivas - As always, you said it right - I too don't think you can equate a kidney donation with this.

  8. From our comfortable positions, we can easily condemn surrogacy. I m not supporting it either - but fact remains it is one of the healthier options among others for them to make some money (The surrogate gets proper nourishment etc). Tough laws need to be created to protect these women from being forced into surrogacy or from being duped. About surrogates having to rear and giving up their own (biological) child) - that is really deplorable.

    It is so disheartening to think what less fortunate women and their families have to go through to get out of debt. I do hope an end to poverty comes in sight and till the time being we all should help the poor every which way possible.

  9. Usually, I find it hard to judge the morality of other people's decisions without feeling like the sanctimonious right-wing conservative types in the US (ughh). But on the question of exploitation, in my mind there is no doubt that it is morally wrong. The issue here is not one of adequate compensation for the surrogate mother. The emotional and physical toll on the surrogate mother by itself qualifies as exploitation.

    It is unfortunate that in these cases adoption couldn't be an outcome. I realize there are all kinds of problems in the adoption process and rackets galore but if done right, it can be such a win-win situation for the child and the family desperate for a child.
    --with the power to trash ;)

  10. @thoughtful train - Understand your view. Gut wrenching poverty cannot be easily comprehended. I admire your empathy.

    @J - I completely agree. Adoption is a real alternative.

  11. Dear J & Ramesh, I don't agree on adoption by chance. It is again, as intimidating an issue, even more to the life of the child. Let alone the parents, who have to 'prepare' themselves for adoption, think of the family that has to accept the child into theirs, without being prepared. In a society like India, it's really tough, unless it's the parents take to adoption as a choice, with no limitations!

  12. @athivas - you are so right. Grandparents and relatives need to be brought on board. The family cannot approach adoption as if they are settling for the inferior option. Also as a society we need a mind shift. But there are so many children around the world, homeless and orphaned, and so many couples that are desperate for children to love. Is it naive to believe that there may be a way out?

  13. Adoption is an equally famous outsourcing (to use your words) wherein people sell their kids for a consideration. While selling is an atrocious thing to do still, but atleast it makes the future of the kid better and so it is still fine. But surrogate mothers are a pure commercial transaction little less to the sale of organ. it definitely sounds very tough to digest.

    But lets look it a little practically. all of us spend a certain part of our productive life for a certain monetory consideration. so in effect we are effecting a sale of our mental faculty without depleting the capability of the organ. this is a cruder form of sale of a physical capability for a consideration. the way at the end of our professional life we look back to certain moments where we have actually made a difference to someone's life, in this case, there is a real difference to two longing couples.

    But having said this, the problem in this whole thing is that there are too many middlemen. while the article talks about 60000$ being spent, what proportion of this actually reaches the intended receipient and whether she is able to effectively utilize it to take her life to next level is the biggest challenge.

    i know this may sound a little too insensitive and i also know if someone confronts me face to face and asks me this question, whether i would never say this but then, while humans are emotional fools, they are also practical morons, i guess i am wearing the latter hat now.

  14. it has been an engrossing reading, including all comments. I'm totally with Ramesh that this is morally wrong.
    Surprising that in this age, in evolved societies, people still insist on the biological offspring. Children of gift of god, whether biological or not.
    My respect for people who have adopted children has gone up several notches.

  15. @Sandhya - Adoptions is "outsourcing" too, but an orphan or an abandoned child - what a difference to that life can adoption make.

    This is a tough issue with no easy or right answers. Appreciate your point of view - moronic ? Bah !!

    @Sabareesan - I too have considered parents who adopt, in the highest esteem.

  16. Its both right and wrong at the same time, Imagine not having a baby and there is way that you can actually have your baby through someone. Its medical marvel and when done properly, and I mean properly in every sense it becomes the best life affirming act for the lady who does it and to the parents.

    I remember watching a program in Ophera, a guy is father to 60 children, through an agency where he donated sperm, but they dont disclose personal information, later one of the kid opened a website and many came along. Its crazy in one way or other, but hey whats not crazy about the life we live ?

    On the other hand, exploitation is there in every business, so in this, yes these ladies are taken for granted, for lesser money by the brokers and all, who in the right mind would agree to do this for free ? unless the person is related, even then it takes a big will to do 9 months of carrying.

    I am not sure whether u watched FRIENDS its a serial that was high flyer few years back. In that one of the character gives birth to her brother's triplets, through surrgcy. it was very funny when he tells that often " i had my brothers babies hehe " but it was very moving to see her giving away the babies.

  17. sorry i rambled so much :)

  18. @Sri - You haven't rambled at all. Very interesting comment. As you say, its both right and wrong at the same time !

  19. I have not heard of that surrogate outsourcing in the Philippines, though. If there are situations, when one inevitably have to undergo surrogacy I would understand. But doing it for cash profit, I think there comes the question of morality.

  20. @thinker - Thanks for visiting and commenting. If its hasn't reached the Philippines, its something to be thankful for, I think. The morality issue is not easy at all.


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