It has been a known fact for childless couples around the world that they can opt to have children birthed for a fee by a surrogate from India. Many from Canada and the UK have done it and actually have been thankful in doing it. Thus, India's "rent-a-womb" industry has flourished so much that a local doctor has spearheaded the construction of the world's first baby factory, while the Indian government mulls over regulating the sector.
Dr Nayana Patel explained her decision to have the facility constructed from a desire to take care of the child while still in the womb of the Indian surrogate mother.
India builds world's first baby factory; mulls over regulating flourishing "rent-a-womb" industry (http://www.dilemmaproductions.ca)
The state-of-the-art centre being built in a small city in the state of Gujarat will have a floor for surrogate mothers, offices, delivery rooms and an IVF department. It will even have restaurants and a gift shop.
Essentially, it be a refuge for the many Indian women who have willingly obliged to carry in their wombs the babies of Western couples unable to conceive in exchange for a fee.
Her rent-a-womb program, Dr Patel boasted in a BBC Four documentary, has benefitted childless couples of 600 babies.
A Canadian woman named "Barbara" told BBC Four she didn't think ill of the process because she wanted so much to have her own child. In India, she met "Edan," a woman from Gujarat, and paid her to become her child's surrogate. When Edan gave birth to her son Ceron, Barbara stayed in India for four months while fixing all necessary paperwork so she can bring him home with her. Edan continued breast feeding her son until it was time to go home to Canada.
"Infertility is a medical problem,'' Barbara, who tried hard in vain to become a mother for the past 30 years, said.
"If people born with bad eyesight get corrective eye glasses, and diabetics get insulin, why can't we get medical treatment for our problem?"
Childless couples all need to send in their sperm or embryos to the clinic via courier, according to the documentary. If successful, the couple would then need to pick up their new son or daughter in India nine months after.
"I have faced criticism and I will in the future. According to many, I am controversial. There have been allegations of baby selling, baby-making factory," Dr Patel said. She did say that she pays each surrogate roughly US$8,000 per child, and more if twins.
Hopeful parents pay her about US$28,000 for the services.
"The surrogates are doing the physical work agreed and they are being compensated for it."
"With the money, they are able to buy a house, educate their children and even start a small business. These are things they could only dream of before. It's a win-win situation," Dr Patel said.
The surge of criticism has alerted the national government to consider regulating its "rent-a-womb" industry, albeit still half-heartedly.
"There is a need to regulate the sector," Dr Sudhir Ajja of Surrogacy India, a fertility bank that has produced 295 surrogate babies, was quoted by Reuters News. "But if the new law tightens rules as suggested by the ministry of home affairs, which disallows surrogacy for same-sex couples and single parents, then it will clearly impact the industry and put off clients coming from overseas."
"Legislation should be there so that this wonderful procedure can be supervised and it is being done by the right people for the right people," Dr Patel said. "But more bureaucracy will make it difficult for everyone. It will not only mean less commissioning parents from overseas but it will also impact surrogates, who will lose out on the only chance they have to change their lives for the better."
Surrogacy India's patrons are 90 percent overseas clients, while the remaining 10 percent were catered for same-sex couples.
In 2002, India opened its doors to commercial surrogacy, becoming one of just a few countries where women obligingly get pregnant for another's child but for a fee. Conception is done through a process of in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) and embryo transfer.
Over the years, the industry flourished, attracting childless couples from Britain, the United States, Japan and even Australia, partly due to low-cost technology and scant bureaucracy. But the major overriding factor was the country's poor population.
Although there are no official figures, the United Nations in July 2012 estimated India's surrogacy business and fertility industry is more than $400 million a year, with at least more than 3,000 fertility clinics nationwide.