More than 30 years ago, the first "test tube baby" was born. She is now grown with a child of her own (conceived naturally). Since her birth, which made for sensational headlines around the world, more than 3,500,000 babies have been born using ART (assisted reproductive technology). Now, with cheap flights, an easing of many international travel restrictions and medical advancements coming seemingly faster than they can be reported, fertility experts and medical ethicists are voicing worries about the problem of "reproductive tourism" which can put women and babies at risk.
Without any sort of standardization or regulation, it is impossible to know the risks a woman is walking into when she boards a plane for Bhopal, India or Denver, Colorado. Because of the patchwork of national laws, Canadian women come to the States to buy eggs or embryos while Americans who can't or don't want to pay the prices here travel to India and other places where surrogates can be paid on the cheap. Sadly, the United States which leads the world in combating human trafficking has failed to step up to the plate on the matter or reproductive tourism (which will be defended as a form of sex trafficking in a later post) and is known as the "Wild West of Reproductive Tourism".
Advances in travel which make plane fare to India within budgetary reach of ordinary people combined with exponential advances in medical technology have created a perfect storm of baby hunting on the cheap. In so many minds, articles and laws -- it seems to be a case of ability equals suitability. In other words, "We have the means, why not?"
While commentators express a desire to use the term "Reproductive Travelling" rather than "Reproductive Tourism" because the latter term belittles the deep desire behind the journey, to me it seems appropriate, if pejorative, to use a term such as tourism when children are being commodified in this manner -- much as tourists used to travel to Hong Kong for cheap cameras, people are now treating children as if they are a commodity they have a right to purchase.