Surrogacy as a Business: New York State Defies a Global Trend

Kylee Kwiatkowski donated some of her eggs 10 years ago to a surrogacy service to help her pay off her debts, but the procedure led to serious health problems and today she still cannot. not have children. Meanwhile, New York state’s new law allowing commercial surrogacy went into effect last month without much notice.

In the middle of the night of April 2, 2020, buried in a 400-page state budget, a provision to legalize commercial surrogacy in New York City was passed despite a campaign against the move by leading health advocates. and women’s reproductive rights.

The law came into effect on February 15, and surrogacy became a recognized activity in the state. Appeals to Governor Andrew Cuomo by leaders of many organizations asking him to withdraw the legislation have gone unanswered. Then Covid-19 disrupted plans to take the opposition campaign to Albany, the capital. The new law was enacted because most countries around the world have made the practice of commercial surrogacy illegal. Most US states and neighboring Canada also prohibit it.

Taina Bien-Aimé, executive director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, a New York-based international non-governmental organization, has been a major opponent of the new law since reaching the state legislature in 2019. .

“The law was passed in 2020 under the cloak of darkness at the height of COVID-19 infections and deaths in New York City without a democratic process, including legislative hearings or public education,” she wrote in a declaration to PassBlue. “The campaign that led to its controversial adoption was backed by misinformation, disinformation and utter disregard for women’s rights to health and equality.

Bien-Aimé, for example, disputes the claim that New York was one of the last states to fully legalize the commercial surrogacy trade, when it is only the 10th state, plus the District of Columbia, to do so.

“As with any organized exploitation of women for profit, this is also a money-tracking game,” she said. “We need to examine the incentive of a multibillion-dollar reproductive technology industry to push the state to abdicate its responsibilities to protect the health and rights of the most socio-economically vulnerable mothers. (Note: This article focuses on the controversial issues relating only to commercial surrogacy as a business.)

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Globally, commercial surrogacy is an extremely lucrative and rapidly growing business. Global Market Insights, an international market research and consulting firm based in Delaware, tracks trends in the global economy. In December 2020, the company forecast that by 2025, the growth of what it calls the “surrogacy market” will reach a record revenue level of $ 27.5 billion, due to ” a growing number of infertility cases across the world as well as a growing demand for reproductive technology assistance.

Surrogacy pregnancies – when one or more fertilized eggs (ova) taken from one woman are transplanted into the body of another – are not uncommon in many countries. They generally fall into two categories. Private arrangements known as “altruistic” surrogacy are done by mutual consent to help an infertile woman conceive a child. These are for the most part, but not always, legal and may not involve large payments beyond cost coverage, although restrictions may apply.

In the second category, a process known as surrogacy, the child is not biologically related to the surrogate mother. Instead, the embryo is created through in vitro fertilization (IVF), using the eggs and sperm of future parents or donors, and then transferred to the surrogate mother.

In the commercial surrogacy industry, egg donors – who can be paid up to $ 30,000 – are typically outsiders selected for a number of apparent attributes. They and women who become surrogates often need money to pay off debts or help their families through difficult financial times. The Covid-19 pandemic has been one of those catalysts.

The service of a medical specialist who performs a surrogacy procedure can charge high fees, often averaging around $ 100,000 or more. Websites have mushroomed recently, connecting women to surrogacy services through social media.

Minority women are often drawn to the opportunity to earn money, but suffer when things go wrong physically, economically or legally, Bien-Aimé said in a video her Coalition released on February 25, 10 days later. New York State law comes into force.

For women and men with higher incomes, the reasons for choosing surrogacy differ. LGBTQ couples have benefited from surrogacy, and in a relatively new phenomenon, career women, many in their 30s and 40s, have reported having children, are taking advantage of surrogacy services.

The United States is by far the main provider of surrogacy services, experts report, because they are considered safe and offer legal protections in the event of parentage disputes after the birth of a child. It is also one of the few countries in the world where commercial surrogacy is legal in some places.

Many women come to the United States from East and Southeast Asia – including China – where commercial surrogacy is illegal, to arrange and contract a surrogate birth through a third. Such a trade agreement is also illegal in most countries in Western Europe and in many countries in Latin America and the Caribbean region, where the laws evolve.

India has always been a numerically leading nation for commercial surrogacy. However, in recent years he has tried to move away from the business – and the image it has created of surrogacy “camps” full of Indian women carrying children, often for foreigners who pay. less than half the cost of procedures in the United States. New laws have been passed in India, but they can be difficult to enforce, and debate continues over who can legally use the service.

While surrogate mothers may face unforeseen medical issues or the traumatic issue of parting with a child that they may ultimately feel to be theirs, the issue of harm to commercial egg donors often receives less. attention.

Kylee Kwiatkowski, whose story is revealed in disturbing detail in the Bien-Aimé video, was a 23-year-old graduate from Florida overwhelmed by student loan payments and other debts. She decided that becoming an egg donor could help her earn the money she needed to meet her growing financial bills.

Sharing her story, she found a surrogacy service on Craigslist that she thought she could trust and applied as an egg donor. She was quickly contacted by the Toronto-based surrogacy service provider, who accepted her as a client after screening. She was told, however, that because commercial surrogacy was illegal in Canada, she would have to do all home medical preparation in the United States, largely unattended.

She traveled to Toronto to undergo egg retrieval on behalf of a Canadian couple, at least that’s what she was told. Almost immediately, her story turned into a painful nightmare. She had been heavily sedated, she said, but was pushed on a flight home to Florida after the procedure. She fell ill in waves of nausea and vomiting that continued throughout the trip and after arriving in Florida.

“The moment my boyfriend met me at the airport he found me lying on the carpet in the baggage hall because I was too tired and sick to stand,” she wrote on the Legalize Surrogacy: Why Not website.

The next day she had a stroke. She wrote that she was taken from the brink of death twice by emergency doctors at a local hospital who discovered her ovaries had been swollen almost to the size of a grapefruit by hormonal stimulants to produce many more eggs than he was told he would. extract. Her abdomen was grossly swollen with fluid.

She then got compensation, but said she couldn’t provide details due to a confidentiality agreement. In a message to PassBlue in early March 2021, she updated her recent history in a memo.

“It has now been 10 years since my egg donation procedure and the resulting serious health complications,” she wrote. “I still have daily residual effects including nerve damage all over the right side of my body, as well as short-term memory and other cognitive challenges.

“A full year after the procedure and my hospital stay, my doctors finally granted me full medical clearance, with the understanding that this would be what the rest of my life would be like.

“Five years ago I got married and my husband and I knew we wanted to start trying to have children right away. [but] With the history of egg donation, we also knew there might be challenges and immediately asked for help, ”she added. “We are now five years into our fertility journey and we have not succeeded.

“We have worked with several fertility specialists, holistic practitioners, acupuncturists and nutritionists to name a few,” she wrote. “All of them have helped shed light on the unique issues that my body still faces to this day. The common thread always comes back to the severe influx of hormones and trauma that were introduced into my body 10 years ago.

Barbara crossette

Barbara Crossette is the consulting editor and writer for PassBlue and the United Nations correspondent for The Nation. She is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She has also contributed to the Oxford Handbook on the United Nations.

Previously, Crossette was the UN bureau chief for the New York Times from 1994-2001 and previously its chief correspondent in Southeast Asia and South Asia. She is the author of “So Close to Heaven: The Vanishing Buddhist Kingdoms of the Himalayas”, “The Great Hill Stations of Asia” and of a Foreign Policy Association study, “India Changes Course”, in “Great Decisions 2015 ”by the Foreign Policy Association. . “

Crossette won the George Polk Prize for his coverage in India of the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 and the 2010 Shorenstein Prize for his writing on Asia.

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