The world is flat-- and grossly exploitative.
We’ve all taken notice of America’s great quest of more for less, and using whatever means necessary to achieve it. And the word "outsourcing" just makes it seem so fancy and great, right? As you gently pry a red train with lead-based paint out of your child’s hands, maybe you could deign to ponder, “Where, exactly, is the line? And do we care about crossing it as long as we get what we want at a lower cost?”
Perhaps misunderstanding Marx's alienation of labor, we now have the outsourcing of surrogate mothers
in India. Now, customer service and tech support-- those are familiar to anyone who's owned a Dell or even thought about Thomas Friedman's mustache (pictured at right), but human wombs? The cost of surrogacy averages about $70,000 in the US but is a fraction of that in India-- just $12,000, which includes medical expenses and the surrogate's fee.
On one hand this seems pretty exploitive, but the $5,000-7,000 surrogate's fee is nearly ten years earned income in rural India. Confined by a patriarchy and a lack of employment options, surrogacy offers uneducated Indian women a chance to have their own money and a future for themselves and their families that probably wouldn’t happen otherwise. When asked if she felt exploited, surrogate mother Sofia Vohra responded, “Crushing glass for 15 hours a day making $25 a month is exploitation. The baby’s parents have given me a chance to make good marriages for my daughters. That’s a big weight off my mind.”
These surrogates are virtual recluses during the pregnancy, as surrogacy is considered risque in rural India-- many villagers don't understand that the process doesn't involve sex and so consider the practice akin to prostitution-- and there is a risk of the entire family being shunned. Further, a large percentage of Indian women are required to sign documents that grant them no paternal rights, unlike in the US, where a surrogate has a small window of time to stake a claim. This puts the biological parents' minds at ease, but also gives backing to the stance that these women, most of whom are illiterate, are being somewhat duped.
Estimated to be a $445-million-a-year business, surrogacy in India is expanding as fast as these women’s waistlines, and parties on both sides of the ocean seem to be reaping the benefits. Even so, is this blatant economic exploitation? In utero imperialism? Or simply a mutually profitable business arrangement?