Since the day they were delivered more than two years ago, twin toddlers Nikolas and Leonard Balaz have been stateless and stranded in India. Their parents are German nationals, but the woman to whom the babies were born is a twentysomething Indian surrogate from Gujarat. The boys were refused German passports because the country does not recognize surrogacy as a legitimate means of parenthood. And India doesn’t typically confer citizenship on surrogate-born children conceived by foreigners. Last week Germany relented, turning over travel visas, and the entire Balaz family is finally going home — though only after a long legal battle that took them deep into the convoluted world of inter-country adoption.
“We can only wish them good luck,” India’s Supreme Court told local media. But it also reiterated the urgent need for legislation to regulate one of India’s fastest-growing industries. Hundreds of foreign tourists spill into the country every year to hire women to incubate their children. India has become the world capital of outsourced pregnancies, whereby surrogates are implanted with foreign embryos and paid to carry the resultant babies to term. In 2002 the country legalized commercial surrogacy in an effort to promote medical tourism, a sector the Confederation of Indian Industry predicts will generate $2.3 billion annually by 2012. Indian surrogate mothers are readily available and cheap. Unlike most countries in which surrogacy is lawful — and bucking the norm in heavily bureaucratic India — the procedure can take place without reams of government red tape.
Wow, the idea of out-sourcing pregnancy to a a women in a poor, foreign country strikes me as creepy. It feels similar to the trade in kidneys, sold by poor Indians to people from other countries (although that selling is illegal.)