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Get a womb: Gay couples outsource Indian mothers

Welcome to "rent-a-womb." Exploiting the poor or providing a valuable service?

Sensitivities could arise around this emerging trend of same-sex couples flocking to India to hire surrogates. In a conservative country, homosexual intercourse between consenting adults was only decriminalized last year.

Clinics and agencies do not advertise the services offered to gay couples. Still, a steady stream of customers arrives from word-of-mouth referrals or marketing through specialized networks and websites.

At Rotunda, Allahbadia has delivered about 50 babies for gay couples, most of them from the United States. At this very time, several more are in the process.

Each of the women hired to undergo the pregnancy is paid between $5,000 and $10,000. For the poverty-stricken mothers, that money could go toward educating their own children or building a roof over their heads.

In a rapidly liberalizing country, some Indians see the practice of commercial surrogacy for gay Westerners as another fallout of global demand-supply skews. “A baby is a baby is a baby,” says Dr. Aloma Lobo, an adoption specialist and former head of the government’s Central Adoption Research Agency.

But others raise ethical questions about rich Westerners paying impoverished and illiterate women to use their bodies. The medical risks the surrogates undergo, and the emotional hazard of giving up the child they have carried for nine months is viewed as exploitative.

“The reality is that in India there are many women who are financially constrained and they are letting their bodies be borrowed for money,” says C.P. Puri, former director of the Mumbai-based government body the National Institute for Research in Reproductive Health.

Meanwhile, clinics and hospitals which offer surrogacy services often face a different moral quandary. Sekhar in Hyderabad says he refuses to entertain rich Westerners who want to commission a surrogate because of lifestyle reasons. He says, “If they want to use this route because they are scared of stretch marks or sagging breasts, they are not eligible.”