Definition : Surrogate motherhood, is defined as the practice of recruiting a woman, either for payment or not, to give birth to or more children, whather or not conceived with her own oocytes, with the aim of handing them over to one or more people who wish to be identified as the parents of those children.
This practice is misleadingly presented by proponents of surrogacy as a medical advance that enables individuals to satisfy a so-called ‘right to a child’. One way of debunking this “propaganda” is to examine the economic issues involved, the development of this market in children and the way in which the money paid by the clients ( so called intending parents) is distributed, in order to expose the real exploitation of surrogate mothers by the market and the dangers of human trafficking fuelled by this practice.
Economy of surrogacy
Surrogacy: costs and distribution
Whether we are talking about so-called altruistic surrogacy, where only the sums intended for the surrogate mother are limited and determined by law, while there are no limits imposed on all those involved in surrogacy (clinics, lawyers, doctors, psychologists, advertisers, etc.), or commercial surrogacy, the prices charged vary according to the country and the level of sophistication of the services offered. Cynically, the market is organised between “low-cost” and supposedly high-quality destinations, driven by a huge reproductive tourism.
What are the market prices?
In the United States, a surrogacy can cost up to €100,000, which can be explained by the fact that medical costs and expenses are not covered by the public health insurance. In Canada, the price of an ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology) procedure is lower, at €40,000, because many services are covered by the Canadian health care system and therefore indirectly paid for by Canadian citizens. Countries where surrogacy is not regulated and less developed countries continue to offer very low prices, such as Ukraine, the epicenter of surrogacy in Europe .
What do surrogates receive?
In Belgium, the surrogate receives half of the €10,000 paid by the intended parents.
In Canada, the surrogate only receives a quarter of the €40,000 paid. In the United States, the surrogate receives only 16% of the €100,000 paid. The amounts received by the surrogate therefore depend on the price of the surrogacy, but also on how this sum is shared between all the parties involved. In other words, the remuneration depends on the client’s choice, the agency chosen and the market, so the surrogate has no control over the amount she receives.
How is the amount paid by the intended parents divided up?
Example of an indian surrogacy for €26,500:
– Conception of the baby: 65%, or €17,300
– Childbirth: 15%, or €3,900
– Surrogate mother: 12%, or €3,200
– Recruitment : 8% or €2,100
We can see here that the conception of the baby, i.e. medically assisted procreation (IVF or artificial insemination), is the largest part costs. The surrogate receives less money for this than for the cost of the birth, but she still spends nine months of her life for the benefit of others, with the specific risks that an ART pregnancy can entail.
Worldwide surrogacy data
Only a few examples can be given to represent surrogacy in the world. The figures presented here are of course underestimates, as they do not take into account the black market and countries that do not regulate surrogacy.
Estimated number of children born through surrogacy:
- In the United State, where surrogacy is legal and regulated, an estimated 1,700 children are born through surrogacy every year.
- In France surrogacy is illegal, but there is a high level of reproductive tourism to circumvent the law with impunity (i.e. many French people organise surrogacu arrangement abroad). According to a 2011 report by the European Parliament, an estimated 200 children are ‘imported’ into France each year.
- In Ukraine, Feminist organizations estimate that between 3,000 and 3,500 babies are born each year in Ukraine.
- In Georgia: Georgia’s figures are a perfect example of the increase in the number of children born through surrogacy over the last decade, rising from 36 in 2012 to 809 in 2022, with a total of 4,433 children in 10 years (according to data from the Georgian Agency for the Development of Public Services).
- In Mexico, according to the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women and Girls in Latin America and the Caribbean, at least 5,000 babies are born each year in Mexico as a result of surrogacy.
- In the United Kingdom, between 2011 and 2020, there has been a significant increase in the number of parental orders (the legal decision that transfers parentage to the clients after the birth of the child), with 117 cases in 2011 and 413 in 2020, not including surrogacy cases that avoid the parental order system.
Surrogacy brokers and Clinics :
A suurogacy company employing 55 people enables the birth of an estimated 250 babies a year.
In Greece, Dr Konstantinos Pantos, director of the “Genesis Centre”, employs 90 people and claims 400 ongoing pregnancies”.
The United States (where GPA has been legal for over 30 years) is the country with the most brokers agencies and IVF clinics. It is estimated that there are between 140 and 170.
In Canada, there are five organizations classified as surrogacy clinics a and a few specialised IVF clinics.
In Ukraine, there were around 400 IVF procedures associated with surrogacy in 2013-2014, with 40 specialist IVF clinics and 15 surrogacy brokers.
Surrogacy and lobbying :
Our aorganization has carried out an analysis of the relationships between the various intermediaries in the surrogacy process. We can confirm that there are deep-rooted links between clinics in different countries. More specifically, there are links between clinics, IVF and pharmaceutical laboratories, clinics and law firms, hotels and brokers.
These links are the result of close relationships that fuel surrogacy with powerful assets and contribute to legislation increasingly open to surrogacy, i.e. the buying and selling of babies.
The global surrogacy market
“Consumer or importer” countries are those whose nationals order children through surrogacy from other countries, regardless of their own legislation. This is the case, for example, of France (where surrogacy is illegal), which is nevertheless classified as a consumer country because of unsanctioned reproductive tourism.
Conversely, the so-called “producing or exporting” countries agree to satisfy foreign demand at the cost of exploiting their women citizens. In these countries, surrogacy is developed almost exclusively in response to foreign demand. Examples include Kenya, India, Nepal, Thailand, cambodia before 2015/2016 (since made illegal), Ukraine, where local demand is virtually non-existent, Mexico, etc.
There are also countries that are both “producers and consumers” at the same time, such as South Africa, Canada, the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom, where surrogacy is legal.
Case study: human trafficking by the Feskov agency
The women who provide their oocytes for surrogacy purposes, as well as the surrogate mothers, are likely to move from one country to another to collect the gametes, to inseminate the embryo conceived by IVF, to give birth or for any other whishes of the clients.
Let us take the example of one of the surrogate agencies, the Feskov agency.
– The Feskov Agency: this firm has three clinics in Kharkov, Kiev and Prague, with its main office in Kharkov in Ukraine. They themselves promote the possibility of moving babies and surrogate mothers during surrogacy (“it is not necessary to come to Ukraine to become our clients. The reproductive programme and the birth can take place in your country or in another country of your choice”), so trafficking is not a problem for this agency, but something very profitable.
The surrogacies performed by this agency are part of a growing trend, particularly from the countries of origin of the surrogate mothers to the countries of the sponsors, i.e. the countries to which the babies are taken as soon as they are born.
This factsheet “Surrocagy in figures” shows that surrogacy is a real business opportunity far removed from the vaunted practice of seeking a child. Surrogacy represents significant financial transactions which are often very unevenly distributed to the detriment of surrogates. Differences in prices, partly linked to differences in standards of living between countries, giving rise to intense reproductive tourism, contributes to the global exploitation of women.
The ever-increasing number of children born through surrogacy and the number of surrogacy agencies is also evidence of the extremely lucrative nature of this practice. A powerful network of lobbies around the world attempts to influence international policies and institutions in favour of legislation increasingly open to surrogacy.
Reproductive tourism reveals the scale of human trafficking generated by surrogacy, which brokers and clinics highlight as a selling point.
The growing share of this market in the global economy requires the urgency of abolishing this practice in the name of human dignity, the fight against trafficking, against the sale of children and the exploitation of women.
 Site Feskov, consulté le 29/05/23, URL : https://mere-porteuse-centre.fr/services-de-maternite-de-substitution.php