Offbeat (27): Rent a womb or adopt?

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By John B. Monteiro
Bellevision Media Network

My life has been shaped by the decision two people made over 24 years ago. They decided to adopt a child. They got me, and I got a chance at the kind of life all children deserve. – Karn Fowler in Reflections o Motherhood.


29 January 2013: News about Russians passing a law prohibiting Americans from adopting Russian kids and the opposition this has evoked has brought into fresh focus the debate on adoption and the emerging practice of renting a womb. First some dated facts. Jon Huntsman, Governor of Utah, USA, and his wife, Mary Kaye, adopted a one year old child, Kanak, on December 19, 2006 at Mathru Chhaya Orphanage at Nadiad, Gujarat. It was renamed Asha Bharti ( Hope of India ), this girl child  joined another child, Grecie Mie, then six years, from China, adopted by the Governor earlier. The adopting couple already had five biological children. Speaking on the occasion, the Governor said: “Adopting a child would spread the message of love, compassion and care. I have been to Asia thrice and I am attracted by the culture and the respect people pay to visitors. This made me adopt a child from India. We have a large number of Gujaratis in Utah and this bond of love would help to bring the community closer.”


Establishing global families through the adoption route, a la Brangalina (Brad Pitt + Angelina Jolie) and Madonna’s adventure of bringing home an African child, is now becoming fashionable. Angelina believes that adoptive parents prove better when it comes to raising a child than biological ones, as they have to pass through severe stringent tests before qualifying to bring a child into their homes. Her background and personality was thoroughly scrutinized before being granted permission to adopt Maddox, then five years, and Zahara,  then one year. But, she said, when she gave birth to her baby girl, Shiloh Nouvel,  in early 2006, she didn’t have to prove her suitability as mother to anyone.


Before we go on to the subject of renting a womb, let us tarry a while on the critical aspect of adoption. There is adoption within a nation and outside it. There are many childless couples in India who wait in queue to adopt Indian children. At the same time, there are many foreign nationals who come to India to take children in adoption. There are laws and rules governing adoption to ensure the welfare of the adopted child. But, the question is about the relative suitability or desirability of adoption by foreigners vs Indians.


It seems a general observation that Indians look for fair colour and male child whereas foreigners do not have a colour and gender bias – and even adopt handicapped children. One of the advantages of adoption by foreigners is that, unlike in the case of Indian adoption, the adopted child, once integrated into its new family environment, is unlikely venture out to find its roots. This earlier belief is now being eroded by some European adopted children, when grown up, coming to India in search of their roots. One such from Germany came to Mangalore twice and grabbed some media limelight. Whether this is pure curiosity or new-found arrogance is another matter. But, overall the foreigner vs local adoption is wide open to debate.


Now we come to the second route of acquiring a baby, specially by those couples or single persons who cannot have their own biological children, taking the Rent-a-Womb route which is thrown open by advances in medical technology. One highly publicized example of this comes from Kolkota. Amit Banarjee, a single father, then a 45-year-old chartered accountant,had hit the media headlines in October 2005 when he fathered a child, named Arjun. Working on it for about two years with the help of two women – an egg donor and another who carried the foetus – Amit got Arjun with the help of a IVF (in vitro fertilization) specialist. It may be noted that Gujarat has become the centre of Rent-a-Womb business.


One difference between the two routes is the secrecy about the roots of the child. For instance, Mathru Chhaya Orphanage, or any similar agency in India, keeps the roots of the child a secret even from the adopting parents. On the other hand, the person who rents a womb knows the host of the foetus and would perhaps have a commercial arrangement with the host. Unlike in the case of adoption, where the adopted child will not have any biological element of its adoptive parents, in the case of Rent-a-Womb procedure, a biological element (semen of the adoptive father) would be involved. Whether this makes the situation better than the adoptive process is open to ebate.


The subject is open to many views. What are yours? Chew on this!


John B. Monteiro, journalist and author, is Editor of his website, (Interactive Cerebral Challenger) – with provision for instant response. Try responding!

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