JUDY WOODRUFF: And to another in our film project collaboration with The Economist magazine to take us places we don’t ordinarily go.
Tonight, the filmmakers Rebecca Haimowitz and Vaishali Sinha come from the United States and India. Together, they weave a very human story that crosses international boundaries. It’s about an American couple, Lisa and Brian Switzer, who travel halfway around the world to fulfill their dream of having a baby.
A reproductive outsourcing company matches them with an Indian surrogate mother named Aasia. Her last name isn’t given to protect her – her identity.
Here is an excerpt now from “Made in India.”
LISA SWITZER, San Antonio, Texas: You know, a woman a lot of times defines herself by her ability to have children. I just can’t imagine being without kids. I wanted to be a mother since I was about 25 years old, and here I am turning 40. I have been trying for seven years to get pregnant. And it hasn’t been an easy task by anybody’s stretch of the imagination.
We don’t really have the luxury of waiting or the luxury of seeing if there’s other alternatives. This is something that’s — this is our one and final shot.
When I went to the gynecological oncologist, he did a biopsy on my uterus. I was really shocked. They were just, like, we want to do a hysterectomy, you know? We — right now, you’re pre-cancerous. And my doctor was just, like, I know you want this, and I will leave your ovaries there, but your uterus has got to come out.
That was just — that was…
BRIAN SWITZER, San Antonio, Texas: That was a hard day that day…
LISA SWITZER: That was…
BRIAN SWITZER: … when I told her they wanted to take the uterus out, because that was — that was them saying, you will never carry a child. So that’s when we starting looking at surrogacies.
LISA SWITZER: I don’t have a surrogate. I don’t — you know, I can’t afford a surrogate. They want $25,000 to $35,000 just for the mother. My best friend, Jennifer, sent me an article about couples going to India to do IVF and surrogacy.
I found PlanetHospital.
RUDY RUPAK, PlanetHospital: I’m the co-founder of PlanetHospital. And what we do is, we help people get affordable health care from around the world, including surrogacies.
Yes, yes, sure. OK. Bye. Bye.
It was going to happen anyways with or without us. I just want to put the same quality of protection and comfort and safety in surrogacy as I have been doing on everything else that we do medically.
Yes. Hi. It’s Rudy. Hello. It’s Rudy.
We have all the answers, I mean, the whole process, from, you know, which surrogate clinician they go to, all the way to, you know, what’s our legal problems and how do I bring my babies back? If the surrogate changes their mind and wants to keep the baby, what’s the legal recourse? Is this considered baby-buying, or is it legitimately surrogacy?
LISA SWITZER: Five hundred dollar advertising for the surrogate. The preparation of the surrogate and embryo transfer stage is $2,500, because they have to do all her drugs to get her caught up with me and ready to receive a baby. And then the IVF is $500. The surrogate actually gets $7,000 for her carrying our baby.
This woman is carrying a life that I can’t carry. She’s giving me the family I can’t create. You know, I will never, never be able to thank her enough.
AASIA, surrogate mother (through translator): What should I say about myself? I used to clean people’s homes before. I’m not educated. I don’t know how to read or write. So this is my life. I have had three children. All my children were born normally. I have never done anything of this sort.
My sister-in-law, Sanno, had told me about it, but I didn’t believe her, that this can happen with medication. Now, how should I say it? A child without a man.
AASIA: How could a child be conceived without a man? When there’s a relationship, only then can…
AASIA (through translator): That day was kind of good. Suddenly, I found out that I was pregnant. I was happy.
LISA SWITZER: No freaking way.
BRIAN SWITZER: What?
LISA SWITZER: Congratulations?
LISA SWITZER: We got a baby. We got a baby.
BRIAN SWITZER: We did it.
LISA SWITZER: We got a baby. We got a baby.
BRIAN SWITZER: I told you.
MAN: With low cost and high quality, medical tourism is a trend that’s likely to grow.
MAN: The lay press has been interviewing couples who got babies from here, and putting out photographs of these couples with babies in American newspapers and magazines. So this has sort of really given the whole thing a big boost.
We have new companies. Like, you know, every month, we have a new inquiry, a new medical tourism company. Suddenly, we are seeing a whole lot of patient reference from North America coming down to India.
N.B. SAROJINI, Sama Resource Group for Women and Health: There are many, many surrogate women. We don’t know what is happening to them, and the particular diet and the particular regime, when to go, what to do, you know?
Suppose if she has a miscarriage. What will happen? And we have a lot of questions. The focus for Sama is the larger framework. You know, what is the role by the commissioning parents or the intended couple, whatever we call them? What is the role of the state? Our demand was, they should understand the fact that the surrogate mother has a bodily integrity and an autonomy.
BRIAN SWITZER: I started showing my co-workers the “Today Show” website. They got this section here called discuss. What do you think? And I thought, oh, well, let’s see what everybody else thinks. And the first two started out very nice. You know, what’s the legal status, you know, is there any immigration issues, things of that nature. And then it got ugly.
People started saying things like the use of surrogates is a disgusting and immoral practice to begin with, but then to farm it out like cheap labor to women in India, we should be disgusted and ashamed.
And then you get the, oh, hey, it’s all about saving money, you know? What about adopting? There were more people telling us, you should have adopted. You should have adopted. Well, that’s placing the entire orphan issue on the shoulders of infertile couples.
By their argument, anybody who has ever proactively tried to get pregnant together and succeeded and had their own children has robbed an orphan of a loving home, plain and simple. So don’t place that burden on the infertile couples out there. And what kills me is everybody screaming about the surrogacy issue. Oh, it’s a baby mill, you know, it’s a puppy farm.
And it’s not. I felt I had to defend Lisa and I, as well as every other non-Indian that’s going to India to have this done.
So here’s what I wrote to all these people that were just spewing this hateful talk: “The surrogates are well-compensated in line with their local economy. I have seen poverty unlike anything I could have imagined. And knowing what this process is going to do for the surrogate and her family in the long run makes me realize that this is a very good thing for all parties involved.”
AASIA (through translator): The contract had details about payment and the child would go to them, that you should have no right to it, and that later you shouldn’t change your mind, like some women do, because their hearts melt as they think, no, I will not give the child. That shouldn’t happen.
So, I said, no, that won’t happen. They just said that this is how much the payment will be. They told me $2,000. I’m doing this for my children. A son can earn anywhere, but I want to save this for my daughter.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Aasia gave birth to twin girls. And after navigating some legal hurdles, Brian and Lisa brought them home to Texas.
“Made in India” is being screened at film festivals here in the U.S. and abroad. You may find a link on our website for a list of dates and cities.
Tomorrow, special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro explores the ethical questions surrounding international surrogacy.