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Where EAST meets the Northwest

REPRODUCTIVE OUTSOURCING. In Made in India, filmmakers Rebecca Haimowitz and Vaishali Sinha explore one American coupleís solution to their inability to bear children: travelling halfway around the globe to use a surrogate in India. (Photo courtesy of Chicken & Egg Pictures)

From The Asian Reporter, V21, #05 (March 7, 2011), page 11 & 13.

Made in India explores reproductive "outsourcing"

Made in India

Produced and directed by Rebecca Haimowitz and Vaishali Sinha

Screening Sunday, March 13 at the

Hollywood Theatre, 4122 N.E. Sandy Blvd., Portland

By Julie Stegeman

The Asian Reporter

For many people, becoming a parent is extraordinarily important. When biology disrupts plans for parenthood, some folks try increasingly extreme and expensive measures to become pregnant, such as fertility drugs and in vitro fertilization (IVF). When these treatments fail, prospective parents may consider giving up their dream, becoming a parent through adoption, or employing a surrogate ó a woman who agrees to carry an embryo to term for them.

In Made in India, filmmakers Rebecca Haimowitz and Vaishali Sinha explore one American coupleís solution to their inability to bear children: travelling halfway around the globe to use a surrogate in India.

For the couple, Lisa and Brian Switzer, having a genetically related baby is paramount, but the cost of a surrogate in the U.S. is prohibitive, ranging between $70,000 and $100,000. They explore the growing phenomenon of medical tourism ó going to foreign countries for lower-cost medical procedures, from cancer treatment to cosmetic surgery ó and find they can have a child using a surrogate in India for far less than in the U.S., even factoring in travel costs and agency fees.

After introducing viewers to the would-be parents, the film presents the perspective of the other half of the surrogate equation: a 27-year-old married mother of three named Aasia, who lives with her family in a one-room house in an impoverished section of Mumbai. Her reason for becoming a surrogate is simple: to provide a better life for her children. "Iíve done this because of my poverty," she says. "Otherwise I would have never taken this step."

The film raises questions about the ethics of surrogacy for foreigners in India, a practice that has no enforceable regulations, merely guidelines. Are Indian surrogates being exploited or are they being offered a golden opportunity to escape poverty and provide for their families? The film allows viewers to make their own judgement by presenting the experiences of one couple and the woman who carries their child without offering any opinions.

Several issues are brought to light in the film. One is the risks associated with pregnancy, including the possibility of death (which is far more common in India than the U.S.); can this risk be justified by monetary compensation?

Upon discovering she is carrying twins, Aasia seems quite surprised, leaving the impression that the very real possibility was not discussed with her prior to her impregnation. Further, the Switzers are told their surrogate was to receive $7,000, and Aasia is paid far less.

Itís not all smooth sailing for the Switzers either. They run into difficulties with a hospital bureaucracy that has no experience with their situation, and only with a DNA test and the help of the U.S. Consulate are they able to navigate their way through the system. One hospital board member sums up the situation by stating that surrogacy is "a controversial and at times very complex situation that is unpleasant for all the parties."

Made in India offers a fascinating glimpse into the world of "procreative tourism" through the compelling story of Lisa, Brian, and Aasia and the intersection of their very different lives. It is successful at showing the perspectives and tribulations of the American couple and their Indian surrogate mother while provoking a great deal of thought about the ethics of recruiting poor women from countries without any regulatory laws for surrogacy.

The film leaves viewers craving more in-depth information and coverage, however, about matters such as how surrogates are affected long term, health concerns during pregnancy, what kind of support (both mental and physical) the women are given, and what happens if a surrogate miscarries or changes her mind about giving up the resultant child.

Made in India is screening at the fourth annual Portland Oregon Womenís Film Festival (a.k.a. POW Fest) on Sunday, March 13 at 3:00pm at the Hollywood Theatre, located at 4122 N.E. Sandy Boulevard in Portland. For more information, call (503) 729- 1142, or visit <www.hollywoodtheatre.org> or <www.powfest.com>. To learn more about the film, visit <www.madeinindiamovie.com>.