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Surrogate Mothers: Womb for Rent

by Abigail Haworth,  SFGate,  July 16, 2009
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The midday sun is ferociously hot outside the Akanksha Infertility Clinic, a scuffed concrete building in the small Indian city of Anand. Crammed into a single patch of shade by the gate, a stray cow and a family of beggars -- caked so uniformly in dung-colored dust they resemble clay models -- wait out the noontime heat. Inside, the lobby is jammed with barefoot female patients in circus-bright saris. Nurses in white Indian tunics scuttle among them, hollering out names and brandishing medical files. The air smells faintly of sweat and damp cement. On the walls, blurry photos of babies and newspaper clippings celebrate the clinic's raison d'ĂȘtre: "The Cradle of the World" declares one headline.

In this case, the metaphor is also literal. The Akanksha clinic is at the forefront of India's booming trade in so-called reproductive tourism -- foreigners coming to the country for infertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization. The clinic's main draw, however, is its success using local women to have foreigners' babies. Surrogacy costs about $12,000 in India, including all medical expenses and the surrogate's fee. In the U.S., the same procedure can cost up to $70,000.

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