Babies for sale

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The road to hell, as they say is paved with good intentions. And no small number of those good intentions occur when science and technology are able to inject themselves into the human life cycle. Abortion and euthanasia already exist. Euthanasia is being pushed not only to reduce medical costs but to provide a supply of organs for transplants. 1978 marked a watershed, of sorts, in this phenomenon. That is when Louise Brown, the first child conceived via in vitro fertilzation, was born. Until that time a couple that was unable or unwilling to conceive a child of their own… this is back in the old days when couple meant one man and one woman… only had recourse to adoption. IVF changed all that. With an assist from the correct laboratory, a child could be conceived without resorting to the imprecision of the biological process. With it came other neat things. Sperm banks (somehow the image of a dairy operation — but with porn — always comes to mind on the few occasions when I think of them, that and an ineffable sadness over the  lost earning potential of my high school years). Frozen embryos trapped in a limbo between womb and the sewer. And surrogate mothers.

Surrogacy has become a popular alternative to the old fashioned method. Surrogacy takes place when a baby conceived by IVF is implanted in the womb of a woman who did not donate the egg. This woman carries the baby to term and gives birth. For a price. Once considered a boon for women who were biologically incapable of carrying a child, it has become an alternative for women who have decided that the whole carrying a child thing is inconvenient and messy. Like IVF, surrogacy has evil baked in. The evil in surrogacy, for better or worse, is much more obvious. It started out when the couple actually knew the surrogate mother. Then someone discovered that the Third World has a lot of unused wombs that could be rented at a very low cost. Women and children are reduced to commodities. When a child isn’t “right,” the intended parents may simply abandon the child.

Now a perfect storm is brewing. The nexus between a) what to do with excess embryos and b) surrogacy. This is a problem that has faced many industries. For instance, let’s look at agri-business. For a food processing plant (let’s say a soup factory) to maximize profits it must operate around the clock at full capacity. But let’s also say that the factory produces more of your brand (let’s postulate Campbell’s) than the market needs. What do you do? You sell the excess capacity to other vendors, letting them create their own brands and different price points. The remainder gets a plain white label with black type that says “tomato soup” and it is sold at a deep discount as “generic.” But it is all the same soup. The same applies to OTC medicines (look on the Kirkland bottle for “compare to Tylenol”), detergents, etc. etc.

International surrogacy is often touted as a win-win situation. Western couples get a baby gestated for them at a low price, and the women in third world countries get more money than they would normally see in a lifetime.

 But all we rich western countries have to do is look a tad bit closer and the whole facade falls apart. The women are exploited by signing contracts they cannot read, are kept under lock and key, forced to deliver by cesarean section, and then not paid the full amount they are promised. Some womendie. Many of the contracting western couples simply do not care, since they are getting a baby at a discount.

But the exploitation does not stop there. In a shocking piece of investigative journalism, HBO’s documentary show VICE has uncovered even more disturbing details. To maximize results, these surrogates are often implanted with multiple embryos. If the couple only wants one child, any “extras” born are sold on the black market, and these couples have no idea their children are being sold to the highest bidder.

The New Yorker runs an article titled Inside the Dark Realities of the International Surrogacy Industry which should scare the bejeezus out of anyone with a conscience:

Right now, the surrogacy industry is anything goes, which is really scary. There was legislation proposed in India in 2010, it just hasn’t been passed. We didn’t see anyone receive poor medical service at the clinics we were able to visit. At the same time, there’s no limit to how many embryos can be implanted.

Doctors have been known to insert more than one or two embryos to increase the chances that the woman will get pregnant without losing time or money. The commissioning couple may only want one baby, so sometimes, when more than one baby is born, the couple isn’t told, even though it’s their genetic offspring. As you can see in the documentary, I was offered one of these babies from the black market.

Were you surprised by the black-market industry surrounding these “extra” babies?

I wasn’t surprised that it existed, but I was surprised by how easily we were able to find it. We did a lot of research and spoke to a number of experts before we went, and we’d heard rumors that there are extra babies and orphanages of white babies in India. We didn’t find any orphanages, but then, when a couple offered me a baby for sale over dinner, it was shocking.

This is eerily similar to the parable of the Fall of Man:

And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil

Instead of life being something sacred that we hold in trust for God, the Giver of Life, life is being reduced to a commodity subject to the same scrutiny as any other. We are depreciated, amortized, scrapped, and sold for parts. We are produced in mass, conceived outside of love, birthed by a stranger, and the excess sold off for profit. And so we are “as gods.”

How will these children, the product of excess eggs from a stranger, excess sperm from a stranger, birthed by a stranger, and sold at deep discount be treated when they struggle in school? or are rebellious as teens? or they don’t meet the expectations of the new owners. Will they be loved and cherished? Or will they be sent back to Customer Service.