Our Bodies Ourselves, Center for Genetics and Society Launch Surrogacy360.org, Offering Transparent Information on International Commercial Surrogacy
New, peer-reviewed website considers health, legal, and ethical issues
affecting all parties involved in surrogacy arrangements
DEC. 14, 2016 – Our Bodies Ourselves (OBOS) and the Center for Genetics and Society (CGS) today announced the launch of Surrogacy360 (http://www.surrogacy360.org), a groundbreaking educational website that provides factual information for individuals and couples considering parenthood through international commercial surrogacy while also addressing the complex health, legal, and ethical questions related to the practice.
Drawing on both organizations’ expertise – as well as the expertise of academic researchers, women’s rights advocates, and OBOS’s global partners – Surrogacy360 documents how international commercial surrogacy is practiced and the risks faced by all involved: intended parents, paid egg providers, surrogates (also referred to as gestational mothers), and children. (International commercial surrogacy involves intended parents in one country providing payment to a surrogate in another country for carrying and giving birth to a child.)
Experts note that data provided in the public interest is difficult to find online; people searching for information about surrogacy are generally directed to fertility clinics and other websites that are in the business of brokering surrogacy arrangements.
“Surrogacy360 speaks to people considering surrogacy who are looking for honest information about the realities and risks of third-party reproduction – not just the rose-colored stories featured in the marketing materials of fertility clinics and brokers,” said Marcy Darnovsky, executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society. “This website is for them, and for everyone concerned about the increasingly stratified market in human reproduction.”
Surrogacy360 provides updated summaries of the latest research and news stories and tracks legal issues in countries such as Mexico, Nigeria, and Vietnam that are or are becoming commercial surrogacy “hubs” — countries with large populations of economically or socially marginalized women who are easy to recruit because of their financial vulnerability.
The site also offers answers to common questions about surrogacy and resources to help intended parents and paid egg donors make informed, evidence-based decisions.
The need for this information has never been greater, said Sally Whelan, program director of the Our Bodies Ourselves Global Initiative. Many assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) and the social arrangements they encourage are developing largely under the public radar.
“A revolution in human reproduction – the likes of which we have never seen – is now here,” said Whelan. “This new and exciting, far-reaching and innovative era presents unprecedented opportunities in family formation for people with infertility, the LGBTQ community, unmarried couples, and single individuals.”
“At the same time, for others – especially the women who provide their services in contractual third-party reproduction – it can pose unparalleled risks and create new global inequities within a largely unregulated, multi-billion dollar business,” she added.
Ayesha Chatterjee, program manager of the Our Bodies Ourselves Global Initiative, said Surrogacy360 is the only site addressing this dichotomy head-on.
“Given that ARTs and related practices like international commercial surrogacy are embedded in complex global dynamics, robust commercial enterprises, and entrenched social inequities,” said Chatterjee, “the key question becomes: How we can make use of the enormous benefits of ARTs and related arrangements while ensuring we do not do so at the risk of our own and others’ health and human rights? That question guides our work and the inclusiveness of the information we provide.”
Eitan Schechtman-Drayman, a post-doctoral fellow in neuroscience at Northwestern University and co-founder of a website in Israel that considers the ethics of surrogacy, noted that the lack of independent, accessible information can make all the difference between an arrangement that ends up being mutually beneficial and one that has a negative impact on the lives of all involved.
“Surrogacy360 takes an important step forward in this respect, providing individuals interested in surrogacy with freely available tools and thought-provoking insights to help them direct their process in accordance with their own morals and ethics,” said Schechtman-Drayman.
Gina Maranto, co-director of the Ecosystem Science and Policy program at University of Miami and an advisor to Surrogacy360, called the website “a vital and welcome contribution.”
“Thanks to Surrogacy360, there’s now a way to obtain clear, balanced, and medically accurate information to help in making decisions about surrogacy,” said Maranto, author of “Quest for Perfection: The Drive to Breed Better Human Beings.”
Collaborators on Surrogacy360 include members of the ART Working Group, a global alliance of reproductive rights/justice organizations and individual academics and researchers; Sama Resource Group for Women and Health (India); and Women’s Rehabilitation Center (Nepal).
In addition to Maranto, project advisors include Lisa Ikemoto, the Martin Luther King, Jr., Professor of Law at UC Davis School of Law and an expert on bioethics, public health law, and reproductive rights, and Shamita Das Dasgupta, a scholar and feminist activist and co-editor of the anthology “Globalization and Transnational Surrogacy in India: Outsourcing Life.” Many other experts offered specific advice on certain sections, including Marsha Darling, director of the Center for African, Black, and Caribbean Studies at Adelphi University, who is particularly interested in the rights of the child in international surrogacy agreements.
More information on the site organizers and advisors, along with key facts and background information on international commercial surrogacy, is available in the Surrogacy360 press kit: bitly.com/surrogacy360.
Surrogacy360 builds on the longstanding partnership between Our Bodies Ourselves and the Center for Genetics and Society on issues related to assisted reproduction, including the International Forum on Intercountry Adoption and Global Surrogacy, convened at The Hague in 2014. The Center, with assistance from Our Bodies Ourselves, planned a surrogacy track at the Forum and developed a report documenting discussions and outcomes. Elements of this report have been used by the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly to frame recommendations on international surrogacy.
Our Bodies Ourselves (OBOS) is a nonprofit organization based in Massachusetts that develops and promotes evidence-based information on girls’ and women’s reproductive health and sexuality. OBOS’s publications (including its landmark book, “Our Bodies, Ourselves”), website, and blog also address the social, economic, and political conditions that affect health care access and quality of care. Learn more: OurBodiesOurselves.org
The Center for Genetics and Society (CGS) is a public-interest organization based in California working to reclaim human biotechnologies for the common good. CGS brings a social justice, human rights, and public interest perspective to human genetic and assisted reproductive technologies and practices, supporting those that are beneficial and opposing those that threaten to increase inequality, discrimination, and conflict. Learn more: GeneticsAndSociety.org