Made in India explores surrogacy tourism

 

“Made in India” is a feature length documentary film about the human experiences behind the phenomena of outsourcing surrogate mothers to India. The film shows the journey of an infertile American couple, an Indian surrogate and the reproductive outsourcing business that brings them together. Weaving together these personal stories within the context of a growing international industry, the film Made in India explores a complicated clash of families in crisis, reproductive technology, and choice from a global perspective.

Reproductive tourism has become a booming trade, valued at more than $450 million in India, and it’s growing. Infertile couples in the U.S. pay up to $100,000 for a domestic surrogacy, but they can pay for the same in India for roughly $25,000 (this includes clinic charges, lawyer’s bills, travel and lodging, and the surrogate’s fee). But this growth is occurring within a complete legal vacuum: currently, there are no actual laws on surrogacy in India, only suggested guidelines. The practice continues to expand without regulation or protection.

In San Antonio, Texas, Lisa and Brian Switzer sell their house and risk their savings to pay a medical tourism agency that has promised them an affordable solution after 7 years of infertility. Across the world in Mumbai, India, Aasia Khan puts on a burka - not for religious reasons - but to hide her identity from neighbors as she enters a fertility clinic to be implanted with this American couple’s embryos.
 
This film is the first feature documentary to show the personal stories of the real people involved, following their journeys throughout the entire surrogacy process. Aasia is a 27-year-old mother of 3 who lives in a one-room house in a slum in Mumbai. Lisa and Brian believe hiring an Indian surrogate is their only chance to have a child of their own, and they are sure that they will help Aasia just as she helps them. But when facing accusations of exploitation, Lisa and Brian must defend their choices. As Aasia and the Switzers’ stories grow increasingly tied together — the bigger picture behind the globalization of the reproductive industry begins to unfold - revealing questions of citizenship, human rights, global corporate practices, choice, reproductive rights, commodification of the body, legal accountability and notions of motherhood.

Throughout the film, scenes of America and India are juxtaposed, charting out the obstacles faced by the US couple, and giving an intimate understanding of the surrogate’s life story and motivations. It explores the impact of the decisions of one person over the other. The film reveals the legal and ethical implications behind their choices, and presents the conflict between the personal and the political dilemmas of international surrogacy.

The filmmakers comment, ”At the time when we started filming, we noticed that any mainstream conversations around this issue tended to be very polarized: either promoting or condemning the practice. We wanted to bring a nuance to the story that would offer the audience a closer understanding of the intended couple's and the surrogate's choices behind their decisions. We set out to create a film that captured the entire surrogacy process as it unfolded. In addition to the parallel stories of the western commissioning parents and the surrogate, the reproductive tourism industry emerged as a key player in this process, as did US and Indian governments. Today the international surrogacy industry is growing exponentially. However, in countries such as India, the process is taking place without regulation, and without adequate judicial recourse for the surrogates, the commissioning parents or the children. Similarly new medical tourism businesses are growing in the US and abroad without a proper code of conduct and ethics in place.”

Since the film was made, a court case could affect surrogacy tourism. In a case straddling international legal rights and bioethics, the Court of Cassation, France's top court, ruled a California (USA) court went too far by ruling that a French couple are legally the twins' parents. The French court refused to allow French citizenship for 10-year-old twin girls born to a surrogate mother in the United States, in a ruling that affirmed France's legal ban on surrogacy. The ruling exposes the legal limbo that many would-be parents find themselves in because of inconsistencies on surrogacy between countries like the United States, which legally recognizes it, and France, which does not. Other countries, including India and Belgium, are largely silent on the subject, leaving the door open to different interpretations and leaving an international legal void.

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