Boom boom boom, let’s go back to your womb.

In a recent interview, Arundhati Roy described how India is colonizing itself:

We have a growing middle class, being reared on a diet of radical consumerism and aggressive greed. Unlike industrializing western countries which had colonies from which to plunder resources and generate slave labour to feed this process, we have to colonize ourselves, our own nether parts. We’ve begun to eat our own limbs.

Of course, she was speaking metaphorically of India’s emergent middle class expanding at the expense of the disenfranchised people whose resources are plundered, whose land is taken for reservoir or mining projects, and whose rights have been trampled on (often violently) in the name of economic growth. I do not know if Ms. Roy is aware of it, but there is in fact some literal truth to her words as well.

According to Asia Times Online, there’s gold in them thar’ nether parts!

“Reproductive tourism” – as this trade is being referred to – is a booming business. Valued at more than $450 million in India, the industry is growing at a rapid pace. While exact figures are hard to come by, it is said that the number of cases of surrogacy has doubled over the past three years.

How can the outsourcing of pregnancy to India and other developing nations be seen as anything other than the colonization of women’s bodies? Considering the health risks of pregnancy as well as its extremely intimate nature, how is “reproductive tourism” any different from “sex tourism” in any way other than the social acceptability of the former? It’s interesting to me that the same sorts of arguments (e.g., here) for the non-exploitative nature of commercial surrogacy are also the same that have been used to argue that sex tourism is also not exploitation. Both fail to distinguish between adults freely choosing a particular arrangement and larger social forces that put people into a position of having to make very undesirable choices that others can take advantage of.

As an adoptee what I really wonder is, what kind of understanding will children whose gestation was outsourced come to have of this? Not what their parents will tell them (though it puts a whole new spin on the “wrong tummy” story), but how they will see their origins. “When a man and woman love each other very much, they take their sperm and eggs to India where they are put inside a woman who needs money and a baby grows there for nine months and the man and the woman take the baby back home.” Change as needed for gay couples or single parents. In any of those cases, pregnancy basically sounds like shitwork for poor foreigners, kinda like roofing.

By reducing the surrogate mother to a disembodied womb or cheap, hired help, it becomes impossible to talk about any kind of relationship between the surrogate mother and the child. How can creating a person, maybe not from your own genetic material, but by growing and nurturing that person within your own body and then actually giving life to that person in hours and hours of pain, not constitute a relationship? How will a child feel about knowing his or her origin was outsourced to a stranger halfway around the world who he or she will probably never meet?

I don’t claim to know the answers to these questions, but what bothers me is that nobody is even asking them. There’s a some discussion of the exploitation of surrogate mothers, but it seems that everyone just assumes the children will be fine with this. Maybe they will. I am more than a little skeptical.


12 Responses to “Boom boom boom, let’s go back to your womb.”

  1. 1 joy21 July 10, 2007 at 3:44 pm

    Even Gestational surrogates are not complete biological strangers:

    Microchimerism: The presence of two genetically distinct and separately derived populations of cells, one population being at a low concentration, in the same individual or an organ such as the bone marrow. Microchimerism may be due to transfer of cells between mother and fetus or between two twins. Other sources of microchimerism include blood transfusions and transplants. See also: Chimera.

    What the world needs now, is babies more babies, that’s the only thing there’s just too little of la la la

    Except not really, we are drowning in humanity. I am so glad we are getting into reproductive terrorism, sounds very helpful, yes moving in the right direction

  2. 2 Stewie July 10, 2007 at 3:54 pm

    OG children whose gestation was outsourced….I love it….hahahahahaha

    you are the funniest donkeyass assholeloser bastard in the whole wide wawd. I heart you.

  3. 3 Julie July 10, 2007 at 5:20 pm

    iBastard AND Joy, you are both brilliant. Great post iBastard and I LOVE your comment, Joy. I agree most ardently. “Reproductive terrorism,” absolutely. Monstrous.

  4. 4 Tina July 10, 2007 at 8:39 pm

    I don’t understand how this doesn’t feel absolutely wrong and creepy to the ones ‘hiring’ these poor women to do this. Orwell was so right…

  5. 5 iBastard July 10, 2007 at 8:52 pm

    As funny as it may sound (in a tragicomedy sort of way), “outsourcing” is exactly the term unflinchingly used for this phenomenon, just like outsourcing data entry or whatever. As if it’s just some job that somebody somewhere needs to do, and it doesn’t really matter who.

  6. 6 Heather July 11, 2007 at 11:32 am

    “When a man and woman love each other very much, they take their sperm and eggs to India where they are put inside a woman who needs money and a baby grows there for nine months and the man and the woman take the baby back home.” Change as needed for gay couples or single parents. In any of those cases, pregnancy basically sounds like shitwork for poor foreigners, kinda like roofing.”

    Yes, yes, YES. Bravo to this post.

  7. 7 cheryl July 11, 2007 at 2:02 pm

    It’s interesting that you are discussing this, a few years ago my younger sister came to me and offered to carry a child or donate eggs if needed for DH and I. We hadn’t even considered surrogacy at the time. Had we chosen that route she (or my other sister who also offered) would have been the only ones I would have considered. I couldn’t imagine involving a complete stranger. Had we gone through with it my sister would have also been my child’s guardian in the event something happened to me.
    I agree with you post, it just seems like people exploiting someone less fortunate.

  8. 8 Julie July 11, 2007 at 2:52 pm

    FYI, Cheryl, had you chosen that route, both your sister and the child would have suffered from the separation for the rest of their lives. Despite the origin or the egg and sperm, the child would have bonded to your sister in utero. Creating children with the PLAN to separate them from their mothers? That’s paying the pain of infertility forward!

  9. 9 cheryl July 11, 2007 at 3:26 pm

    Julie, I guess I should clarify a little more, these were my thoughts from a few years ago when the topic came up. I was reminded of them from the post and shared.

    As it turns out my fertility issue doesn’t deal with an inability to carry a child, I have “poor egg quality”. So the need for her to carry the child was never there, however, had she carried the child for me, she and the child would not have been separated in the same way that is discussed in the post which is no further contact. My sister and and the child would have had as much contact as they wanted/needed.

    While I do understand your point about pain of separation, I have been doing a lot of reading on this lately (related to adoption), I do believe that in my situation ONLY that these things would have been discussed in great detail before any final decisions would have been made to proceed.

  10. 10 iBastard July 11, 2007 at 3:40 pm

    I agree that, whatever problems the type of surrogacy cheryl is talking about may have, the “pregnancy outsourcing” type is on a whole other level. It’s just grotesque, and the thought of it becoming common practice is very chilling, considering how pretty much every other aspect of globalization has turned out.

  11. 11 Julie July 11, 2007 at 9:09 pm

    Oh, I agree, iBastard. It is chilling to say the LEAST. Unfortunately, I don’t think it will be stopped. I think we are just too far gone. I confess I am grateful (!) that I will not live long enough to see us flush ourselves completely down the toilet.

    Cheryl, thanks for the clarification. With all due respect, though, separation of the mother/child dyad is still separation with all the attendant complexities.

  12. 12 cheryl July 12, 2007 at 12:34 pm

    Julie, I disagree. In MY situation I don’t believe for one second the separation that you are talking about would have been an issue and since the surrogacy didn’t happen it’s a non-issue.
    Thank you for your opinion on the subject..

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: