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Surrogate Pregnancy Goes Global
“Google Baby,” is a compelling documentary Wednesday on HBO2 that shows us how provincial the standard in-vitro fertilization procedure has become.
The film, produced and directed by the Tel Aviv filmmaker Zippi Brand Frank, examines the ways in which globalization has further complicated and diffused the fertility industry. “Google Baby,” though, is also the chronicle of an idea, one belonging to an Israeli entrepreneur named Doron, who gets into the business of using egg donors in the United States and gestational carriers in India to provide for the childless of the Western world.
Logistically, this involves freezing multiple donor embryos and shipping them to a surrogacy center in Anand, India, packaged in liquid nitrogen. Emotionally, it requires an enormous amount of fortitude on the part of childbearers in a culture where some regard surrogacy as a kind of prostitution.
What could easily be rendered as straight-out horrid exploitation is given an amazingly neutral hand as Ms. Brand Frank deftly avoids the clichés that typically materialize in any journalistic look at atypical reproduction. “Google Baby” — which derives its title from the practice of finding potential egg donors online — gives us no Upper East Side trophy wives choosing surrogacy to avoid the inconvenience of weight gain and relinquishing of gin and tonics. Nor does it show us Ivy League parents insisting on donors with perfect SAT scores and a proven record of Roger Federer-like displays of hand-eye coordination. (The demands of the affluent can seem insane in this universe, extending, as one reproductive endocrinologist once told me, even to shoe size.)
Doron himself was inspired to pursue this particular enterprise by his own experience becoming a parent as a gay man, and he seems moved to help other gay couples have children. The clinic in India is run by a doctor, Nayna Patel, who is insistent that her service not become a baby factory. She requires that clients either be childless or have no more than one child. Dr. Patel, who charges $6,000 for surrogacy, sees the service she provides as sisterly, “one woman helping another.” Offering a cost-benefit analysis to a surrogate, she explains that the prospective mother “cannot have a child which she longs for, which you are going to give, and you cannot have a house.” Read more.