Putting Health First: The Global Business of International Commercial Surrogacy

screenshot from a short video on egg donation
Screenshot of new video on egg donors
By OBOS |

OBOS has long been known for calling attention to women’s health concerns that are overlooked due to financial profit, insensitivity, or simple ignorance. One recent example is international commercial surrogacy, which has grown into a global business. 

Over at Surrogacy360.org, OBOS’s educational website dedicated to this issue, we’ve been working to promote transparency and best medical practices by documenting the health, legal, and ethical aspects of surrogacy arrangements. We consider the impact on everyone — intended parents, egg providers, gestational mothers (commonly called surrogates), and children.

We just hit our one-year anniversary mark with Surrogacy360, and we’re proud to announce a new video we worked on with Raquel Cool, co-founder of We Are Egg Donors. It features Raquel’s story and the experience of other women who have undergone the egg retrieval process, sometimes without full knowledge of the risks. 

OBOS is pushing for a national health registry to track egg donors’ health; only a volunteer registry exists, and most fertility clinics don’t tell their clients about it.

International commercial surrogacy is largely regarded as a business; some even call it an industry. While there are well-meaning go-betweens who genuinely want to protect the interests of their clients — the intended parents — and help them form families, others mainly prioritize their own interests, subjecting the parents to fraud and overcharging or denying them basic information. Either way, the vast majority of gestational mothers are left to fend for themselves, with no one looking out for their needs.

So one of the tools we designed for Surrogacy360, with support from the Open Society Foundation, explains how intended parents can mitigate health risks to gestational mothers. It addresses single embryo transfers vs. the common practice of transferring multiples, vaginal births vs. the common practice of cesarean sections, and the importance of social connection, physical mobility, and care through a pregnancy and after the birth.  

Prior to Surrogacy360’s launch, Ayesha Chatterjee and Sally Whelan of OBOS’s Global Initiative researched the quality of information available to the public, focusing on news stories and the websites of international commercial surrogacy providers. Their findings were published as a chapter in the new anthology “Babies for Sale: Transnational Surrogacy, Human Rights and the Politics of Reproduction” (Zed Books, UK).

Ayesha and Sally also hosted a webinar with members of the ART Working Group, a global network facilitated by our partner, the Center for Genetics and Society, and participated in the 2017 Baby Markets Roundtable at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law, an annual gathering of scholars and advocates that meets to discuss questions on family formation and regulation. What a year!

To find out more about assisted reproductive technologies, check out these blog posts. We also encourage you to check out Surrogacy360’s Common Questions about international commercial surrogacy, and let us know if you have comments or questions of your own.

One Comment

  1. James Cavenaugh says:

    This is new to me. I will put a link to this article on the PA Religious Coalition for Reproductive Justice Facebook page
    Jim Cavenaugh, President
    PA RCRJ

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