Monday, July 22, 2013

Centre for Social Research,bias reporting and consequences

There is a need for good scientific, qualitative research which looks to the circumstances of surrogates in India, but the CSR is not doing this. They recently released a report which has been widely quoted in the media, damning those involved in surrogacy:
With no ethical over sight, no ethics committee, no discussion on compensation, or even an outline of the questions asked ( and how they were asked),  the report's bias is self-evident. You know exactly what kind of report you are going to read, when in the first few pages, we read this:

“The commercialisation of surrogacy raises fears of black market and baby selling, breeding farms, and turns impoverished women into baby producers, with the possibility of selective breeding at a price. Surrogacy degrades a pregnancy to a service and a baby to a product

Anything can raise fears, but where is the substance to this? I have also yet to come across any formal research that included anecdotal information, relayed by a third party, treated as fact:

“Recently a shocking case of surrogacy was unearthed in the Bombay International Airport, where a foreigner couple went for surrogacy in India only for organ transplant for their sick child in their country. This revelation further highlights the need for studies on surrogacy to provide a base for formulation of laws and regulations on surrogacy arrangements.”

It is shocking, but the evidence of this is where? A friend of a friend told me... that has to be true!  That this is re-reported all over the media with no correction from the CSR or with no attempt to place this in any kind of context, which is worrying in itself.
Then there are the contradictions’, here some of the more obvious:

  1. Decision to become a surrogate mother was mainly taken by the surrogate mother herself, but under pressure from her husband and only few of them (36% of surrogate mothers in Mumbai and 14% in Delhi) had faced any resistance from their family and friends) but later on  the vast majority of husbands resisted the women becoming the surrogate  “on the side of the husband (53.33% of the respondents in Delhi and 68.75% of the respondents in Mumbai)” - so either husbands were mainly  pressuring them to do surrogacy or they were resisted their wives doing surrogacy, but it can't be both.
  2. “The surrogate mothers were ‗brain- washed‘ into believing that they would be getting huge sum of money at the end of the road and this was based on” Nothing subjective here with language!
  3. Regarding one of the most crucial factors i.e. payment received by the surrogate mothers under the surrogacy agreement/contract, 46% of the respondents in Delhi and 44% in Mumbai stated that they received 3 to 3.99 lakhs for being a surrogate mother. 42% of the respondents in Mumbai mentioned that they received payment between 2.1 to 2.99 lakhs. In Delhi, 26% of the respondents said that they received 4 lakhs or more for this arrangement. 

It should be mentioned here that there are certain doubts regarding the payment to the surrogate mothers.  So, surrogate mothers reported what they earned, but it didn't fit into the picture being painted of the "the new Indian Slave trade" as one media outlet described it, so let's have doubts. 

They also included statements that were just wrong:
1. There is no confusion over what is written on a baby's birth certificate, it is the name of the Intended parents.
2. Everyone has a contract, without a contract, you cannot get a medical visa, without a medical visa, treatment cannot commence.
3. If you are unfortunate enough to have a foetus with significant disability, it is for the parents to decide how to proceed. They are the parents and the responsible party
There was some relevant information that is useful, but it gets lost amongst the sensationalism of  this report. The majority of surrogates were employed, the majority were able to quote what they will be paid, the vast majority of intended parents didn't care what gender there babies were, they just wanted a baby.
 The sad thing is that this poorly written, poorly researched report is a missed opportunity. As intended parents, we know there are many examples of good practice, of respectful relationships between clinics, Intended parents and Surrogates'. You see evidence of this in many blog posts throughout the web. But it is much easier to label us 'unethical' and create doubt about all our motives.

This report would lead you to believe that there is no "Good Practice" in India, no examples of surrogates being treated respectfully, no clinics abiding by the spirit and content of the ART guide lines, but we know this is wrong.

SCR could have focused on what is good and bad practice in the field, what could be best practice, rather than just blanket condemnation of all surrogacy - but that probably wouldn't get the same kind of media coverage, would it?


  1. I've been reading your blog for a while but haven't commented. I just wanted to thank you for sharing this and for saying the things that I thought as I read it.

    My husband and I have been pursuing surrogacy in India for almost a year now. We're not pregnant yet, but are hopeful that will happen for us.

  2. CSR claim that it was very hard to get to speak to surrogate mothers and they had to pay Rs 3000 to speak to the surrogate mothers. So who asked them for Rs 3000 and who was it paid to and who has paid CSR the hundreds of thousands of rupees that this costs? Their website mentions funding from international sources some of who are not happy with Indias success story with surrogacy. FACT is that CSR had a piece of paper with written material on it and were offering women anywhere between Rs3000 to Rs 10,000 to sign that paper.

    1. Exactly, it's true.. Research was done by offering money to those who were supposed to sign the papers.