Under the Assisted Human Reproduction Technology Act passed in 2004, a surrogate who carries a fetus for others may be reimbursed for expenses such as prenatal vitamins and costs of travelling to the doctor. She cannot receive any sort of wage for carrying the child.
Few women and even fewer couples, are willing to undergo surrogacy within these guidelines. The law has been criticized for being ambiguous.
The law is vague, and no one is sure which expenses are legitimate, said Stephanie Scott, who runs a surrogacy agency in Texas, where surrogates who work for her may be paid up to $25,000 US plus expenses for carrying the child.
The uncertainty surrounding the Canadian law has created a chill among infertile couples, Scott said.
“They’re afraid to do it in Canada. A lot of people think they’re going to go to jail,” said Scott. “If they send their surrogate, you know, $600 for her rent or whatever, they try to pay it in cash, under the table, so there’s no paper trails.”
This has pushed the search for couples desiring surrogacy outside the continent, looking primarily in countries like India.
You can outsource just about any work to India these days, including making babies. Reproductive tourism in India is now a half-a-billion-dollar-a-year industry, with surrogacy services offered in 350 clinics across the country since it was legalized in 2002. The primary appeal of India is that it is cheap, hardly regulated, and relatively safe. Surrogacy can cost up to $100,000 in the United States, while many Indian clinics charge $22,000 or less. Very few questions are asked.
But this doesn’t mean there is a consensus in India. The debate is complex. Opponents argue that surrogacy further perpetuates a social pressure for women to have children and exploits the economic situation of Indian women living in poverty, while the advocates argue that surrogacy is a right that poor women should be allowed to financially benefit from. For many, there is no easy answer.
If you have the time, this talk show has a great debate about the issue (running time approx. 50 minutes).