Surrogate mothers cashing in

By Shan Juan (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-08-28 07:32

Xiao Fan has twice given birth to a child she will not raise.

That is because the 32-year-old is a surrogate mother who gives birth on behalf of other couples for cash.

While in some countries surrogacy is common practice, authorities here frown upon it, although little is done to stop it.

But it is women like Xiao (not her real name) and an unknown number of brokers, agencies and other middlemen who help keep this "industry" alive, largely because of loopholes in the legal system and considerable demand from infertile couples in desperate need of a child.

Although she had the assistance of a doctor the first time she got pregnant, the second occasion involved much less clinical circumstances.

"I inseminated myself with the sperm of the husband of another woman and later gave birth to the child, whom I would never meet again," Xiao said.

"Although I didn't feel the maternal urge to hold the baby in my arms, I couldn't control my emotions. One minute I was bursting into tears, the next I was laughing out loud."

Her motivation was largely financial.

"I've no choice as I have my own children to support," the widow said.

Her first surrogate birth earned her 70,000 yuan ($9,250), her second 100,000 yuan. But she said her conscience is clear.

"I'm not ashamed of what I did and feel happy to help those in need," she said.

Neither are the brokers who match couples with surrogate mothers.

"We find suitable surrogate mothers for clients, serving as broker between them and introduce up-to-standard hospitals to carry out the artificial insemination, if needed," said a division director surnamed Xie with the self proclaimed pioneer online surrogacy agency,

Despite the strict ban on surrogacy, imposed by the Ministry of Health (MOH) in 2001, the agency continues to operate and has established relationships with a number of hospitals.

"The hospitals involved are among those approved by the MOH to perform assisted reproductive technology (ART) as we have special relationship with them," Xie said.

As of June 30, there were 95 authorized medical institutions nationwide, according to the Ministry of Health. They risk having their ART licenses revoked if they violate "technical standards and ethical principles, and assist in surrogate motherhood".

Moreover, surrogate motherhood remains an area untouched by national laws, allowing business to flourish.

"It's a complicated issue involving ethical concerns and social norms," a staff worker surnamed Ma with the MOH's information office told China Daily.

"Therefore, it's difficult to produce legislation on surrogacy bans."

Couples are quite willing to spend as much as 200,000 yuan, which includes the maintenance fee for the surrogate mother and commission for the broker.

The surrogacy agency, AA69 claimed it helped get more than 20 successful matches a month.

Many young women, called "volunteers" at AA69, some with master's degrees, become surrogate mothers.

Feminists have been particularly vocal opponents of surrogate motherhood, saying it is an abuse of the female body.

But for women in agony over their own infertility, such arguments do little to justify reasons for them not to seek out a surrogate mother for a child of their own.

"Infertile men can turn to sperm banks for help starting a family.

"Why can't I find a surrogate mom to have a baby who would liven up my marriage and my whole life?" one client of AA69, surnamed Feng, said.

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