As crisis bites, Indian women turn to surrogacy

Tue Apr 7, 2009 9:17pm EDT
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By Rina Chandran

ANAND, India (Reuters) - Shabnam had dreamed of owning a home for years, but with few prospects for her husband, she followed the lead of many poor women in her town in western India: she signed up to carry a baby for another couple.

At the clinic of Nayna Patel, perhaps India's best-known "surrogate doctor" who delivered Anand town's first surrogate baby, more women are signing up to be surrogates, with even nurses and teachers lining up, as their husbands lose their jobs.

"The women who come here usually want the money to buy a home, pay off loans, or for their childrens' college education," said Patel in her small clinic, the walls of which are covered With clippings and pictures of Patel with babies and parents.

A surrogate is generally paid about 250,000-400,000 rupees ($4,000-$8,000), a huge sum of money in a country where many live on less than $2 a day.

Doctors with a western education, top-notch facilities and lower prices have already made India an attractive destination for procedures ranging from bypass surgery to liposuction.

Lax legislation and an entrepreneurial streak in Gujarat state have helped make Anand a last stop for many childless couples at home and abroad, after its first surrogate baby five years ago.

In this bustling town known for India's best-known brand of butter, Patel has delivered more than 100 surrogate babies, 40 percent for Indians living abroad and 20 percent for foreigners.

It all began with a grandmother surrogate for a UK couple five years ago that pitched Anand and Patel into the spotlight.   Continued...

<p>Shabnam, a surrogate mother, looks at gynaecologist Nayna Patel during an ultrasound examination of Shabnam in Patel's clinic in Anand in the western Indian state of Gujarat March 4, 2009. REUTERS/Arko Datta</p>