American couples, especially gay men, are having children abroad for less money and with fewer headaches, and India, it seems, has emerged as the ideal surrogate mom destination, according to a report.
According to the report appearing in the website www.the dailybeast.com/blog, Indian surrogacy is now a half-billion dollar industry.
It mentions the case of Mike Griebe and Brad Fister, who tried everything to have a child. They explored adoption. They researched what Griebe termed "a baby factory type deal," where you basically pay for a "ready-made baby." They went to agencies that promise to find babies in the United States.
The Kentucky couple even paid 20,000 dollars to a Virginia woman to be a surrogate, only to walk away when she insisted that if anything happened to Griebe, 38, and Fister, 30, that she would have rights to the baby.
Then, one day, while watching Oprah, they heard about a relatively new way to have a child: using an Indian surrogate.
The segment featured Dr. Nayna Patel, the director of the Akanksha Infertility and IVF Clinic in Anand, Gujarat, India.
At first, Griebe and Fister didn't think an Indian surrogate would be an option.
"We just dismissed it because when we searched it, we found that that clinic would only deal with traditional couples," says Griebe -meaning straight couples.
After searching online, they came across the Web site for Surrogacy Abroad, a Chicago agency run by Benhur Samson that guides foreign couples through the process of hiring a surrogate mother in India.
After talking with Samson and an embryologist in India, the couple drove to Chicago to meet with Samson.
"We felt very comfortable with him, unlike everybody else we had dealt with after that time," says Griebe.
The two decided to use Fister's sperm for the pregnancy, and so he flew to India with Samson. Fister met his surrogate who, he says, is married with two children and told him the money she's making from the surrogacy will go toward her children's education.
Fister says he was surprised at how open the clinic was.
"The whole process was a lot more hands-on than it would be in the U.S.," he says. "You get to see the whole process. I got to watch the embryos go in. Those are things you never get to see here. You follow them the whole way." After one failed attempt and one miscarriage, their surrogate is now due in April.
They get updates, including ultrasounds, via email.
Samson, a native of India, started Surrogacy Abroad in 2006, when one of his sisters was having trouble getting pregnant. He'd worked in the medical field for 22 years, processing claims and benefits, before starting the agency.
"I flew to India and checked out all the clinics," he said, before finally settling on Kiran. Commercial surrogacy was legalized in India in 2002, and it is now estimated to be a 445 million dollar business.
Griebe and Fister say they've spent around 40,000 dollars on the surrogacy process so far. According to Samson, 8,000 dollars goes directly to the surrogate mother.
Samson's agency is one of the few to specifically target gay couples.
Homosexuality was only decriminalized in India in July; even though it was rarely prosecuted, it was still a social taboo until a few years ago.
It's illegal for surrogates to be recruited directly by the hospital. Instead, they're found by a social worker at an NGO, according to embryologist Samit Sekhar.
"A year ago, I would have said it was very difficult to recruit a surrogate," says Sekhar. "Now it is becoming much more open. They get a decent amount of money. They get free food, free boarding, and free clothes, and they are housed in a nice place" for 12 months, away from their families.
Sekhar says that Kiran can house up to 50 surrogates at a time. "They stay at the clinic. The non-pregnant surrogates are housed in an apartment," he says.