April 24, 2024

Will adoption have to compete with surrogate mothers?

Worrying signs in Guatemala

There are signs that the international
adoption agencies are shifting away from adoption towards surrogate motherhood
as transferring children from one country to another becomes more snarled in
red tape. One country where this could become a serious issue is Guatemala,
according to Karen Smith Rotabi, of Virginia Commonwealth University.

She observes in the reproductive health
blog RH Reality Check that “As adoption has become more difficult, the global
surrogacy industry has begun to surge to meet the fertility demands of
individuals and couples seeking to secure healthy infants.” A Miami-based company
called Advocates
for Surrogacy
catering for gay and lesbian couples says that Guatemala is
an excellent and ethical source of cheap babies. It describes its program as “A
Great Opportunity for Surrogates” who are “extraordinary women
who bring to you the gift of life”.

In 2007, according to the Dallas Morning
, US parents were adopting 1% of the babies born in Guatemala: “We have surrogate mothers in the United States, but at 3,788
adoptions a year, [adoption] in Guatemala is industrial-strength. Guatemala’s exports,
by value, are coffee, bananas, sugar – and babies.”

In the old adoption system, a Guatemalan woman
could earn around US$1,500 if she relinquished her child. Presumably the price
for babies made to order would be much the same. “For a woman of privilege in the
United States looking for fertility alternatives, this is a bargain-basement price,
but extreme poverty is the only reason why any Guatemalan woman would agree to such
an arrangement.” 

Those developing Guatemala’s surrogacy industry
should be cautious, say Smith Rotabi. They are “stepping into a grey area [that]
will challenge us all to consider what is right and wrong and how far to take the
privilege of purchasing power.”

She argues that a political and policy response
is needed, as Guatemala has no legislation governing surrogacy and little is
known about how widespread it is.

“Developing an expanded or more precise definition of human trafficking and
a new area of regulatory control will become important considerations in this next
wave of the global baby business.” ~ RH Reality Check, May

Jared Yee