Bioethics Blogs

Israeli Parents, Indian Surrogates, a Nepali Earthquake, and “Cheap White Eggs”

The typical media story about transnational commercial surrogacy presents the process as a creative solution for people who could not otherwise legally or financially pursue surrogacy to become parents.  The experience of the women whose bodies are used to nourish and develop these babies, and who give birth to them, remains a back-story. But in a recent Radiolab episode, a chance encounter and a momentous earthquake coincide to reveal rarely examined layers of complexity in this oft-told fairy tale.

Two Israeli men, Tal and Amir—legally excluded only by virtue of their sexual orientation from hiring an Israeli woman to bear children for them in their own country—discover that they can do so through an agency that hires Indian and Nepali women. Of course they have to obtain eggs from women with more desirable physical attributes. They soon learn that “cheap white eggs” can be obtained from the Ukraine.

All of this is managed successfully. That is to say, they now have three children, each of whom has the genes of one of them as well as the genes of an unknown, tall, young, Ukrainian woman. And they have three more embryos in a freezer in Nepal.  So why, looking back on the experience, did they say: “We feel like suckers”?

The men claim, as do many commissioning parents, that they did not want to be part of an exploitative process. Yet they seem to have given little thought to the provider of those “cheap white eggs”—only that their child’s genetic mother’s height and physical appearance fit their specifications.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.