The State of Florida has spilled no small quantity of ink outlining the legal confines of gestational surrogacy (see particularly sections 742.13-742.17, here). Legally permitted gestational surrogacy in Florida does not include “bringing in and harboring aliens, sex trafficking of children, forced labor and furthering slave traffic,” however; these charges were leveled against Esthela Clark in 2015. Clark had held a Mexican woman in her one-bedroom apartment, repeatedly inseminating her with semen from Clark’s boyfriend. When the woman failed to become pregnant, she was forced to have sex with two strangers, and placed on a diet restricted to beans. On 29 March 2017, the 47-year-old Clark from Jacksonville, FL, pled guilty to one count of forced labor. The woman had been forced to clean Clark’s apartment. (See story here.) What happened to the issues surrounding the smuggling of the woman across the border in order to be a surrogate for Clark and her boyfriend?
On the other side of the globe, India is arguably the world’s leading provider of surrogate mothers, with the industry estimated several years ago as “likely worth $500 million to $2.3 billion.” India legalized surrogacy in 2002, and is now considering reining in its surrogacy situation:
- The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016 was introduced by Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Mr. J. P. Nadda in Lok Sabha on November 21, 2016. The Bill defines surrogacy as a practice where a woman gives birth to a child for an intending couple and agrees to hand over the child after the birth to the intending couple.
- Regulation of surrogacy: The Bill prohibits commercial surrogacy, but allows altruistic surrogacy. Altruistic surrogacy involves no monetary compensation to the surrogate mother other than the medical expenses and insurance coverage during the pregnancy. Commercial surrogacy includes surrogacy or its related procedures undertaken for a monetary benefit or reward (in cash or kind) exceeding the basic medical expenses and insurance coverage.
- Purposes for which surrogacy is permitted: Surrogacy is permitted when it is, (i) for intending couples who suffer from proven infertility; and (ii) altruistic; and (iii) not for commercial purposes; and (iv) not for producing children for sale, prostitution or other forms of exploitation.
In their 2012 Journal of Medical Ethics article, Deonandan, Green and van Beinum formulate eight “Ethical concerns for maternal surrogacy and reproductive tourism”
Robustness of informed consent
Quality of surrogate care
Limits of surrogate care
Multiple embryo transfers and abortion
Exploitation of the poor
Of the eight ethical concerns Deonandan et al found in the Indian experience of surrogacy, at least five of them were present in the Florida case described above –and that would-be surrogate was not even pregnant! It seems that India is not the only entity that should reconsider commercial surrogacy.
— D. Joy Riley, M.D., M.A., is executive director of The Tennessee Center for Bioethics & Culture.