Article from India discusses relationship between surrogacy and adoption

I believe family-making is an intensely personal choice. What’s right for me may not be right for you, and vice-versa. For some people, IVF, embryo or sperm donation, or surrogacy makes sense. For others, private adoption where a birth mother chooses the adoptive parents is the right choice.  Some 114,000 children are available for adoption through US foster care. That process best-suits many. It’s crucial that individuals know what makes sense for them, so they are able to be the best parents they can be to their children. If international adoption feels like the right choice, as it did for my husband and me, so be it.

Having stated that caveat, I’m posting a link to “Why Surrogacy Doesn’t Need a Celebrity Role Model,” by Lakshmi Chaudhry on the India-based website Firstpost. Chaudhry discusses the actions of Aamir Khan and his wife, who opted to discuss publicly their choice to add a child to their family through surrogacy.

The article interests me because it touches on the relationship between surrogacy and adoption, and how the increasing numbers of the former correlate to the decreasing numbers of the latter. In no way am I advocating for one method of family-making over another; nor am I excusing corrupt practices in either. I’m simply noting the relationship between the two.

Chaudhry writes:

Surrogacy satisfies the natural urge for a biological child that is genetically our own. Medical science now offers surrogacy as a last resort option for couples who may have remained childless. More importantly, it is also becoming a choice for couples who would have otherwise chosen to adopt. The number of surrogacy-assisted births are growing worldwide even as the numbers for adoption are on the decline.

In recent years, responding to cases of child trafficking and kidnapping, governments across the world have cracked down on inter-country adoptions. This laudable effort, however, has had an unintended effect, as reproductive health expert Karen Smith Rotabi notes:

With this new system, combined with problems like the recent adoption scandals in Russia and other nations, inter-country adoption has undergone radical decline and it is no longer the opportunity it once was for building families. In the US, the practice peaked in 2004 with 22,990 children sent to the nation as adoptees as compared to only 12,753 in 2009. As adoption has become more difficult, the global surrogacy industry has begun to surge to meet the fertility demands of individuals and couples seeking to secure healthy infants.

As a result, nations like India and Guatemala are instead becoming surrogacy destinations, where it is now far easier to rent a womb than to adopt a child.

Add to this the strict adoption procedures in the West, and you have increasing numbers of foreigners turning toward surrogacy as a quicker, less burdensome option.

Last month in the Independent, Alice Jolly described the herculean efforts required to adopt a child:

A one-to-one meeting with a social worker follows. It’s a scene from The Trial, by Kafka. We have to convince her we want a child, but we must not appear to want one too much. We tell our story: a stillbirth, four miscarriages, failed IVF. The social worker thinks we have too much baggage – but surely the truth is that most people who adopt do so because other plans have failed? …

We are guilty until proven innocent. Everything is a problem – the fact that we’ve lived abroad, that we have an existing child, that we both went to boarding school, that once every two months Stephen might smoke a cigarette in a bar.

The Jollys in the end succumb to the inevitable: they hire a surrogate in the United States and return with a baby girl named Hope. It is a happy ending but not for all, as Jolly notes, “But still I am left with questions about why we couldn’t have given a home to an existing child instead of creating a new one. And some part of me will always be haunted by that baby who we might have adopted – and who is probably still waiting for a family and a home.”

And that’s the hidden, unspoken opportunity cost of new reproductive technologies in a political landscape where governments have taken on a negative role in adoptions. They are keen to prevent unlawful adoptions, but do little to create systems that will place children in genuine, loving homes. As a result, even couples looking to adopt are being pushed toward surrogacy instead.


On the one hand, India’s rapidly becoming the surrogacy destination of the world, and yet tens of thousands of our children remain abandoned and unloved. We run the danger of becoming a society that is indifferent to our children, and yet is eager to create them for profit.

The bottomline: Baby Khan is indeed a bundle of joy but when it comes to celebrity role models, we are in greater need of an Angelina Jolie not Aamir Khan. And as our ambassador for UNICEF, I suspect Aamir himself would agree.


The Independent article in which Alice Jolly describes her adoption and surrogacy journey is eye-opening, as it illustrates the great lengths to which people will go to become parents. Read it if you can.


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8 Responses to “Article from India discusses relationship between surrogacy and adoption”

  1. Sharon says:

    Wow, interesting and to me, worrisome. India has declining fertility among upper class urban dwellers, and adoption is very difficult even for Indian citizens. At the same time, it is a society where the rich hire the poor to do everything; if you go to a nice beauty salon, you will have at least two people attending your hair, one to hold the hair dryer and one to work the brush through your hair. The potential for poor women to be exploited is great so long as ethics and laws lag behind the reproductive technological developments. There was a case a year or two ago where a foreign couple hired an Indian surrogate, but then I think they divorced. The man still wanted to raise the child but India refused to let the child go — his own biological child!! I think they placed the baby in orphanage for a time before it all got sorted out. I think he eventually was allowed to take his child home. I’ll have to look that up and blog about it, with a link back to your post!

  2. Jessica says:

    Thanks for the insight, Sharon. As you say, as technology advances so must laws and ethics. There are lessons to be learned from the history of adoption; otherwise, we run the risk of repeating old mistakes while perhaps even creating new ones.

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