I have a partiality for bulletin boards. During my fellowship at Harvard University, I noticed many posts on the campus bulletin boards offering $50,000-$70,000 for young, good looking, and highly educated women. I was intrigued by how technical baby making had become, and how pregnancy could be disassembled into its elements only to be put together again through an online mix-and-match.
The research and filming took nearly three years. As the work advanced I grew to realize that people are totally unaware of the fact that babies had become a commodity and it was becoming clear that globalization had a profound impact on the growing business of baby production. Local cost and legal obstacles are being addressed by an international global operation. We filmed in the USA, Israel and India, where we made three work trips over the course of the documentary. When we started filming in Dr. Patel’s clinic in Anand, India, she had 70 surrogate mothers in process. During our last filming session she had over 250 surrogates and other doctors in Mumbai started offering the same service. The field is obviously growing rapidly.
I can understand those who see the outsourcing of surrogacy to India, for a fraction of the price of western surrogates, as exploitation. However, after having spent considerable time in India, I am more inclined to accept Dr. Patel’s point of view and her feminist agenda as she perceives it. Dr. Patel believes that for these rural women in India, surrogacy is almost the only way to make a life changing move. They are transforming their lives and the lives of their families and children by making education and/or housing a viable option.
Yet this growing new industry also provokes a growing list of ethical questions. One example, that did not make it into the movie, was that of Manjhi, a Japanese baby girl born to a Japanese couple through a surrogate in India. Between the time she was conceived and her birth in India, the ordering parents divorced. Neither the would-be mother nor the father wanted the baby and they declined to come pick her up from the surrogate house in Anand. The Indian surrogate who gave birth to Manjhi was being pressured by local authorities in India to take her as her own. The Indian surrogate did not want to take Manjhi as her daughter and the Clinic supported her in a legal dispute against the state. Eventually Manjhi’s paternal grandmother decided to take care of her and Manjhi made her way to Tokyo three months after her birth.
I endeavored to keep any personal judgment on my part out of the movie. People tend to have strong opinions on these issues, and what is perceived as salvation to some, is viewed as diabolic by others. The situation will become even more complicated, as I believe that in the future, surrogacy will not only be used as a last resort but rather as an alternative for women who do not wish to have stretch marks or might not want to be pregnant because of their careers.
I believe the business aspects of the reproduction industry are intriguing as well as frightening. With an absence of moral rules or ethics, the global economy is exploited to its full measure. Thus, with no existing legal barriers to overcome and lots of money to be made, the human reproduction industry is steaming ahead. A cold and distant business reality guided only by the principles of the free market dealing with the most sensitive of issues. I tried through Google Baby to provide a glimpse of what I believe is likely to become a major concern for humanity in the future.