December 3, 2022

Mexico is the new Ukraine for the global surrogacy industry

“‘Rent My Womb’: Women Are Desperate to Become Surrogates in Mexico” is the headline in the on-line magazine Vice. The article below paints a frightening picture.

The central figure is Leti Montalvo, a married woman with four children in Mexico, living in dirt-poor conditions. She decided that the best way forward to a better life was surrogacy. An agency offered her US$12,500, “three times as much money as her husband normally earns in a year.” The intended parent is a single man from Spain.

After two embryo transfers, she had not become pregnant. She will try again. “I want a better future for my kids,” she said. “I don’t want them stuck where I am.” 

According to Vice, the surrogacy industry in Mexico is flourishing, with about 30 agencies operating.

Montalvo is one of a surging number of Mexican women signing up to become surrogates for Americans and Europeans desperate to have babies. Recent global events have fueled Mexico’s appeal: The Russian invasion led to the decline of Ukraine’s once-booming surrogacy industry, a growing number of middle-class Americans are seeking a cheaper surrogacy alternative, and a 2021 Mexican Supreme Court ruling struck down a state ban on foreigners and same-sex couples hiring surrogates.

“I think it’s the fastest-growing market in the world, especially for same-sex couples, because of cost issues and the proximity to the U.S.,” said Sam Everingham, global director of Growing Families and an expert on international surrogacy who’s based in Australia. 

However, surrogacy is loosely regulated, if at all. There are horror stories of surrogates who become ill, women who are forced to have C-sections because they can be scheduled, and babies who have been abandoned.

Promises of easy money are overblown. Surrogates often have little understanding of what their rights are, what kinds of questions they should ask before signing a contract, what sorts of conditions they can demand—such as pregnancy clothes or transportation expenses—or what kind of health insurance they are being given, if any. When things go wrong, they have little recourse.