Anywhere you can find women, you can find people trying to control women’s reproductive capabilities. I write a lot on The Frisky about attempts to deter women from having abortions. But in parts of Asia, there’s a problem that’s quite different: fertile women acting as surrogates who are kept in farm-like conditions for “baby breeding.” Recently, 14 Vietnamese women, including seven who were pregnant, were rescued from an “illegal and inhuman” baby breeding facility in Thailand.Surrogacy is a big business for couples, or individuals, who can’t get pregnant. Stars like Sarah Jessica Parker, Nicole Kidman and Elton John have all recently had babies via a surrogate and there are plenty of others, too.
But of course people get desperate. They’re willing to go underground. Or they’re willing to go above-ground in sketchy circumstances. And people who are ripe for exploitation — such as these Vietnamese women who claim the “baby-breeding” ring promised them $5,000 per birth — will flock to it.
The company, called Baby 101, hired women in Thailand to act as surrogates for childless people and charged clients around $32,000 for the service. But Baby 101 allegedly locked the surrogates in two houses in Bangkok, Thailand, and cut them off from the outside world. Guards allegedly patrolled the houses 24 hours a day, as well. They were only discovered by Thai authorities when they were able to email the embassy and tip them off. Several different Baby 101 employees at the Bangkok location and other locations have been arrested for an illegal surrogacy clinic and for human trafficking.
All incidences of surrogacy are not the same, of course. I would never want to condemn all surrogacy services, especially in other countries, as dodgy. But the issues of exploitation of financially vulnerable women — check out this piece from Glamour magazine on military wives recruited as surrogates — is a relatively new area of reproductive rights to shine a light on as more and more of our lives become “outsourced.” You can learn more about exploitation within surrogacy from “NOW” on PBS, via The Investigative Fund.