Making Babies in India

For some parents, having a baby is impossible. Sometimes, these parents get help from another woman – a surrogate. Ryan Geertsma and Robin Basselin look at commercial surrogacy in India.

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Update: Commercial surrogacy may be ending in India. You can read an article about the current situation from The Times of India. However, the debate still continues.

Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Ryan Geertsma.

Voice 2 

And I’m Robin Basselin. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

Today's Spotlight begins with a baby's cry. We are in the city of Anand in the country of India. An Indian woman has just given birth. But the baby is Japanese. His parents live in the country of Japan. They have traveled a long way to wait for the birth of their baby. The Indian woman who gave birth to their baby is part of a growing business in India. It is the business of commercial surrogacy.  Today’s Spotlight is on commercial surrogacy in India.

Voice 2 

A surrogate is a woman who gives birth to someone else’s biological child. Sometimes, a woman is not able to get pregnant. She is infertile. Surrogates can help women who are infertile have their own biological children. This happens through a process called in vitro fertilization.  Using modern technology, a doctor can join a woman's eggs with a man's sperm outside of the woman's body. This creates a human embryo--the beginning of a baby. A doctor can then place the embryo into the uterus of any woman who is able to get pregnant. Then, this surrogate can carry and birth the baby for the woman who is infertile. This process is called surrogacy. Often, people will pay surrogates money to have their babies. Paying for a surrogate is called commercial surrogacy.

Voice 1 

Today, India has become the world's capital of commercial surrogacy. In most countries commercial surrogacy is illegal. This includes most of Europe and Japan. In other countries, it is legal, but costs a lot of money. Often, the surrogacy process is filled with legal difficulties. For example, in some parts of the United States, if a surrogate mother gives birth, she can decide to keep the baby. In the United Kingdom, a surrogate is always considered the baby's legal mother. But things are different in India.

Voice 2 

In India, commercial surrogacy is legal. India also has a lot of skilled doctors and medical costs are very low. There are also very few laws to control surrogacy. So compared to other countries, the legal process for surrogacy is easy. In India surrogates are not considered legal mothers. And they have no rights over the baby. All of these facts make India a promising place for men and women who need a surrogate to have their own baby.

Voice 1 

Doctor Nayna Patel was the first doctor to start a commercial surrogacy business in India. She owns the largest and most famous fertility clinic in the country. In the last ten years, Patel has assisted surrogates in giving birth to almost 700 babies. Parents from all over the world pay to have surrogates from Patel’s clinic.

Voice 2 

In some countries, it can cost up to $150,000 dollars for parents to have a surrogate. At Patel's clinic its costs parents around $25,000 dollars to pay for a surrogate. This price includes all of the medical, travel, and legal costs. The surrogate will receive between $6000-8000 dollars for her services. This is more money than most of these women could make in 10 years working other jobs. For some of the women, it is more money than they could earn their whole lives.

Voice 1 

However, many people do not think commercial surrogacy is right. And they think Patel's clinic does more harm than good. They believe that this kind of surrogacy is exploitation. They think it encourages rich parents to use poor surrogates to their advantage.

Voice 2 

But many surrogates disagree. Working as a surrogate pays them well. And often, they say that they are choosing surrogacy to provide a better life for their own children. Najima Vohra told Marie Claire Magazine,

Voice 3 

"My daughter wants to be a teacher. I will do anything to give her that chance."

Voice 1 

Another surrogate named Sofia Vohra agrees. Before becoming a surrogate, she had a job crushing glass in a factory. This job was difficult and dangerous.  And it paid very little money. She told Marie Claire Magazine,

Voice 4 

"Surrogacy is not exploitation. Crushing glass for 15 hours a day is exploitation. The baby's parents have given me a chance to arrange good marriages for my daughters. That helps take away a lot of my worry.”

Voice 2 

For the parents who pay, the surrogates give them a priceless gift. Veronica is a woman from Russia. She was unable to get pregnant. So, Veronica and her husband decided to use a surrogate from Dr. Patel’s clinic. Veronica told the BBC news organization,

Voice 5 

"Using a surrogate is my last chance to have my own child. For me, the embryos are already alive. They are waiting for that time when they can grow and be born and say, "Hello Mommy.' It is like my whole future starts today, right now."

Voice 1 

Lisa and Brian Switzer are parents from the United States. They also decided to pay an Indian surrogate to carry their baby. They did not have enough money to pay a surrogate in the United States. They sold their house to be able to have enough money to pay for surrogacy in India. In a film called “Made in India,” Lisa said,

Voice 6 

"I just cannot imagine being without children. This woman is carrying a life that I cannot carry. I will never be able to thank her enough."

Voice 2 

But Aasia, the woman who is carrying Lisa Switzer's baby, says,

Voice 7 

"I have done this because of my poverty. Without my poverty I would never have taken this step."

Voice 1 

One of the major problems with commercial surrogacy in India is the lack of laws to protect surrogates. In India, the surrogates take all of the risks of being pregnant. If the pregnancy damages their bodies, they have no legal help.

Voice 2 

In recent years, the government of India has taken steps to write new laws about surrogacy. These laws are supposed to place some limits on commercial surrogacy. Yet people continue to criticize commercial surrogacy. They argue that it harms the surrogates. But Doctor Patel does not worry about the criticism. She told BBC news:

Voice 8 

"When you see a baby in the hands of parents who cannot have children, and you see the surrogate who was in poverty and now has a house and can send her children to school, no amount of criticism is going to hurt you."

Voice 1 

The writer of this program was Jen Hawkins. The producer was Mark Drenth. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at This program is called, “Making Babies in India."

Voice 2 

We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye!

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What do you think about surrogacy?


Kaleb Kolaibi's avatar
Kaleb Kolaibi
said on November 04, 2016

“I have done this because of my poverty. Without my poverty I would never have taken this step.”
I think this a phrase that appeared in the program summarizes the matter!
Surrogacy is a part of human organ trafficking on the one hand, and the exploitation of the rich to the poor, on the other hand.
What if the couple aseptic poor? Was Dr. Patel clinic will help them? I do not think so!
I think that it is best to adopt a child instead. This achieves three great and sublime goals:
1. happiness for the couple.
2. care of children orphaned or displaced ... etc.
3. not to exploit the poor.
Or at least, it can be used for IVF technique.
I do not agree with those who say that it serves the poor because the care for the poor is responsibility of the government and society.
God bless you

Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on November 06, 2016

From: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (Severino Ramos)
To: spotlight programme
Subject: answer to the question above
Date: Sunday 06, November 2016

Dear Robin Basselin, Ryan Geertsma, Jen Hawkins, and Mark Drenth:

At first, I want to thank you to bring us readers and learners of English that complex and important issue, thanks!
I think it is a normal process into the medical service because this process has helped parents who cannot have their babies by themselves.  Or single man or single woman who want to become a father or to become a mother who do not have time to date, to go out to meet a person to start a relationship to get married with another person to become a couple to have their babies.
However, it is very difficult because it involves much money to get it even though here in Brazil it is legal to develop this process in the laboratory.
Also, parents have to pay a lot of money to the surrogate . Of course, it cost less money than in India. However, it is very expensive, too.

The best regards,
Severino Ramos

Avatar Spotlight
said on December 14, 2016

From my viewpoint, first of all the new right laws protecting surrogates in India should be appointed because pregnancy can harm seriously the health of these women in some case. However, surrogacy can become the significant financial support to surrogates. Subsequently, they are able to help thir own children and families.
Using a surrogate may be a last chance for some parents to have own child, therefore this decision can change their life making it better, happier in future. I suppose concerning surrogacy there the strong emotions also appear along with financial issues! I think the emotions probably appear on both sides - as a surrogate as parents who are given a baby!
Thanks Spotlight team for excellent topic!

Avatar Spotlight
said on October 17, 2018

thank for your article, it helps me to image difficulties faced when someone doesn’t have their own baby, especially in the eastern cultures. Every family need a boy to continue the growth of a family.