Canadian laws drive infertile couples to India: critics
Mark Devereux and Brita Cloghesy rode a three-year emotional roller coaster as they tried to conceive naturally. In their 40s, they found it wasn't an option.
Doctors could help them create embryos in a Burnaby, B.C., lab -- but the couple found out Brita couldn't carry the baby.
They looked into finding a surrogate mother in Canada but couldn't find anyone, partly because of restrictive Canadian laws against paying surrogate mothers.
"It's legal to get a surrogate in Canada but you can't pay someone to do it," said Brita. "Unless you can find someone to give up their body for nine months, it's virtually impossible."
So the couple gave up on a "made in Canada" baby, and turned to the land of outsourcing: India.
"India became the next option," said Mark.
- Related: Making Babies investigative series
They are part of a number of Canadian couples who are contributing to a fertility boom in India. Some call it "reproductive tourism": where couples sidestep the legal or economic issues in their own country to have children in India.
With hundreds of fertility clinics in the country, it's a massive, $500-million industry. In some fertility clinics, women stay in compounds and are paid several thousand dollars for nine months of raising the child -- much more than they could make on another wage.
Mark and Brita travelled to India and met their surrogate mother, a 28-year-old housewife named Pinki with two children. The embryo will be theirs, but it will be planted in the surrogate in the Adiva clinic in Delhi later this month.
Pinki will be paid $7000 to carry the child.
"Frankly they think, ‘nine months out of my life is not bad and the return could be 10 years work to get that kind of revenue," said Mark.
By comparison, it can cost up to $100,000 to hire a surrogate in the United States, where commercial surgery is allowed.
But critics worry that "renting a womb" could be simply exploiting poor and vulnerable women.
"It's exploitation in the sense that most women who do this are poor, less educated, and don't have a lot of knowledge about their rights or other opportunities," said Anita Ho of the University of B.C. Centre for Applied Ethics.
Ho said she's concerned also if something doesn't go to plan: for example, if there is a problem with the pregnancy.
Fertility experts fear medical outsourcing to India could be expensive in Canada as it will be the Canadian health care system that has to deal with the children and the parents when they come back to Canada.
"We have no control over the quality of care there and whatever happens becomes our responsibility when they come here," said Dr. Albert Yuzpe of the Genesis Fertility Centre.
Mark and Brita also were concerned that if they did find a surrogate in Canada, the practice is unregulated -- and there would be no one to turn to if something went wrong.
Mark and Brita say they're comfortable with the care Pinki will receive in India, and added that their doctor at the Pacific Centre for Reproductive Medicine in Burnaby has been in touch with the centre.
The couple says they wouldn't tolerate poor conditions in India for the sake of their own child.
"We feel it's a win-win situation," Brita said.
The couple will stay in India for the month of November undergoing in vitro treatments. And their hope is to return in nine months to hold their baby.
Watch CTV News at Six for a full report from Mi-Jung Lee and Jon Woodward. All this week reproductive issues will be explored in their CTV Investigates series: Making Babies