Countries such as Thailand, India, and Nepal once offered an alternative option to commercial surrogacy for foreign couples with lesser means.
There were risks involved, of course: there was less oversight within the industry, as well as inconsistent support for non-traditional families, including gay couples. Extremely rare circumstances in the west—such as a surrogate mother who challenged parentage—were slightly more common.
For those willing to accept these risks, the option was often seen as worth pursuing. This was particularly true for traditional couples—those with a medical inability to conceive a child, who were often met with a certain amount of sympathy by the socially conservative mindset in countries such as Nepal or Thailand.
When Thailand’s media ran with the story about a gay couple’s surrogate refusing to turn over the child which they had contracted her to carry to term, they portrayed the woman as an unwitting victim—in an industry which was quickly painted as an international scam. According to the state-controlled media, surrogacy was meant to take advantage of a population which most of the world saw as being easily fooled. In response to the resulting popular outcry, Thailand’s military government banned all surrogacy agreements with foreigners in early 2015.
The couple in question did eventually win the right to leave Thailand with their child, after a long and drawn-out legal process which saw them unexpectedly residing in Thailand for more than a year. However, this path is now closed to other intended parents.
In September of 2015, the Republic of Nepal officially banned international surrogacy arrangements as well. Their ban explicitly covers ancillary services, such as the issuance of birth documentation for children born to a surrogacy agreement. Even if services are initiated outside of Nepal, the small, mountainous republic will no longer issue visas or exit permissions for a child born under such terms.
The Supreme Court of Nepal initially halted new surrogacy arrangements with foreigners in August of 2015. It is still possible for those intended parents whose agreements were initiated prior to August 25th to acquire the necessary documentation to bring their children home with them. This involves a painstaking level of documentation regarding the process of their individual surrogacy agreements, which must be shared with both the US Embassy in Kathmandu and with the Nepalese government.
After Nepal’s ban on surrogacy, India also moved to ban surrogacy agreements for foreign couples in November of 2015. What was the triumvirate of nations for affordable international surrogacy agreements, as recently as 2014, is now completely closed to foreigners. Frozen embryos float neglected in vats of liquid nitrogen, while US State Department officials are advising intended parents to avoid incorporating Thailand, India, or Nepal in any step of the surrogacy process—particularly the birth.
This leaves a small, patchwork list of countries where affordable surrogacy services may still be found for foreigners. Many present a host of problems, sometimes more extreme than those risks previously inherent in pursuing an agreement within a country like Nepal. In the Ukraine, for example, surrogacy services are available to foreigners, but are not legally available to gay couples. Israel offers modern surrogacy services, but the procedure is onerous: among other requirements, the married, medically infertile couple and their chosen surrogate mother must all share the same religion.
It is also, relative to other low-cost options, expensive, with costs approaching those of America and Canada.
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All Things Conceivable is a blog dedicated to sharing the knowledge and expert opinions of the dedicated team at ConceiveAbilities, a Chicago-based egg donation and surrogacy agency.