Indian Surrogacy

Collins and Sharmila Rudrappa published a paper in Gender & Society in 2015 titled “Altruistic Agencies and Compassionate Consumers: Moral Framing of Transnational Surrogacy.”

Abstract: What makes a multi-million dollar, transnational intimate industry possible when most people see it as exploitative? Using the newly emergent case of commercial surrogacy in India, this article extends the literature on stratified reproduction and intimate industries by examining how surrogacy persists and thrives despite its common portrayal as the “rent-a-womb industry” and “baby factory.” Using interview data with 8 infertility specialists, 20 intended parents, and 70 Indian surrogate mothers, as well as blogs and media stories, we demonstrate how market actors justify their pursuits through narrating moral frames of compassion and altruism that are not incidental, but systematic to and constitutive of transnational surrogacy. We observed two predominant moral frames: (1) surrogacy liberates and empowers Indian women from patriarchal control; and (2) surrogacy furthers reproductive rights. Within these frames, the market exchange of money for babies is cast as compassion, which allows commissioning clients to sidestep accusations of racism, classism, and sexism. Yet, we reveal that the ability to navigate around these threats relies upon racist, classist, and sexist tropes about Third World working class women. Further, surrogate mothers did not experience significant changes in economic status after surrogacy.