American corporations have long pursued the strategy of outsourcing manufacturing and service jobs to off shore locations where people are willing to work for less. Now some eager beaver entrepreneurs are attempting to apply the approach to parental surrogacy.
The practice of paying a woman to have an embryo transferred to her womb and bear the child for someone else, known as gestational surrogacy, has been growing steadily over the last decade although it remains illegal in most countries.This article is about one such agency which has turned out to be particularly dodgy in it's practices.
Where it is permitted, as in parts of Mexico, businesses like Mr. Rupak’s — many reputable, some not — have flourished by serving as intermediaries connecting clients with egg donors, in vitro fertilization clinics and surrogates. Those able to pay more than $100,000 for services often turn to an American agency in a state where surrogacy is legal and fairly widely practiced. Those with less money often go to India or to Mexico through agencies like Planet Hospital that advertise heavily and charge less than half the American price.
Rudy Rupak, the founder of Planet Hospital, a medical tourism company based in California, was never shy about self-promotion. Over the last decade he has held forth about how his company has helped Americans head overseas for affordable tummy tucks and hip replacements. And after he expanded his business to include surrogacy in India for Western couples grappling with infertility — and then in Thailand, and last year, Mexico — he increasingly took credit for the global spread of surrogacy.There are a variety of reasons why people turn to surrogacy. There are heterosexual couples who are dealing with various types of medical difficulties that prevent them from having children without outside assistance. There are gay male couples who want to raise children that are their own biological offspring. There are also perhaps women who want children but have non-medical reasons for wanting to avoid the process of pregnancy. Most of the information available on this topic is anecdotal rather than any sort of comprehensive survey.
But now Mr. Rupak is in involuntary bankruptcy proceedings, under investigation by the F.B.I. and being pursued by dozens of furious clients from around the world who accuse him of taking their money and dashing their dreams of starting a family.
It appears that these cross border agencies are springing up like mushrooms on the internet. There are of course no international licensing or supervisory mechanisms. There is not only the problem of would be parents being giped out of their money, but there are also serious issues about being sure that the surrogate is getting proper medical care during the pregnancy and delivery.
Even for the people who can afford the price of the service in the US there are potential pitfalls. The states that have laws providing for surrogacy contracts vary considerably in in their legal arrangements. Things get particularly complicated for gay couples. There was a recent case in Texas of a couple who were biological fathers of fraternal twins using a surrogate that were unable to get their names on the children's birth certificates. It seemed that at least part of the problem was that their legal marriage wasn't recognized by the State of Texas.
It would appear that anyone considering surrogacy should tread carefully and do lots of research.