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LIFE DIGEST: Indian women increasingly acting as surrogates for British couples

WASHINGTON (BP)–Indian women increasingly are acting as surrogates for British couples — a trend described by a bioethics expert as “disturbing.”

An Indian surrogate is giving birth to a baby for a British couple every two days in one Mumbai doctor’s practice, according to the London Evening Standard. The report demonstrates the growing popularity of a phenomenon in which Indian women are carrying babies conceived by in vitro fertilization performed with the sperm and eggs of British couples. The women deliver the babies and surrender them to the genetic parents, who take them home to rear them.

Anita Soni, an obstetrician at a Mumbai hospital, says she delivers more than 15 babies a month from Indian women for British couples, according to the Evening Standard. Recently, she delivered twins carried by a Gujarati woman for Chris and Susan Morrison, a childless London couple. The Morrisons paid the surrogate mother about $13,000.

Soni said such an amount “is life-changing” for the Indian surrogates. “It helps them set up a home, get their daughters married or something like that. There is absolutely no exploitation of these women. It is really big money. It is a jackpot.

“They go through a little bit of emotional trauma, but then they go back home and they [realize] they have done it for a good cause,” Soni said, according to the newspaper.

American bioethics specialist Wesley Smith disagreed with Soni’s assessment, saying it is exploitative and can be harmful in numerous ways.

“It is very disturbing to see well off Westerners with such a sense of entitlement that they think it is perfectly fine to use poor women as so many brood mares,” Smith wrote on his weblog June 13.

“And what about the well being of the birth mothers: What psychic cost do they pay to gestate children and then have them taken away, never to be seen again — perhaps never to be ever known about by the children they bore? And what if something went wrong and the surrogate lost her health, her fecundity or her life? Or what if the baby was born with a disability and the parents ‘change their minds’? There is a lot more involved here than the joy of the parents.”

PPFA HIRES ABORTION PROMOTER — Planned Parenthood has hired a State Department official to advocate for abortion overseas in the wake of a restoration of federal funding for organizations that promote or perform the procedure internationally.

Jeff Meer, who has served as a career foreign service officer at the State Department and participated in three international population conferences, is the new director of international advocacy for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA). The announcement was made in a June 15 e-mail to PPFA supporters by Veena Siddharth, vice president of international programs, LifeNews.com reported.

In January, President Obama rescinded the Mexico City Policy, which prohibited international family planning organizations from receiving federal funds unless they agreed not to perform or counsel for abortion or lobby in order to liberalize the pro-life policies of foreign governments.

PPFA is the United States’ No. 1 abortion provider. Its affiliates performed more than 305,000 abortions in 2007, the most recent year for which statistics are available. The organization’s total revenue reached $1.04 billion in the most recent financial year, which extended from July 2007 to June 2008. More than $349 million of that figure came in government grants and contracts.

NO ‘COMMON GROUND’ — At least one abortion rights leader has decried President Obama’s call for common ground on the issue.

In his May 17 graduation speech at the University of Notre Dame, the president encouraged people on both sides of the abortion issue to be open-minded in hopes of finding “at least the possibility of common ground.”

Carlton Veazey, president of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, said “common ground” is “another term for compromise on reproductive choice. In other words, achieving common ground will be accomplished by diminishing the ability of women to make decisions about abortion, whatever the personal cost. That’s unacceptable.

“It’s unacceptable for even one woman to suffer in order for opponents of abortion to be appeased. … We should not sacrifice women’s lives in the service of calming controversy and tempering anger over an issue that has become political,” Veazey wrote on a weblog for RH (reproductive health) Reality Check.

VATICAN NOMINEE — Democrats for Life of America (DFLA) says it is “excited” by President Obama’s nominee to be ambassador to the Vatican.

The president nominated Miguel Diaz, whom DFLA describes as a pro-life Democrat. Diaz is a theology professor at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn., and the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, Minn.

Some Roman Catholics and pro-life advocates, however, expressed concerns about Diaz’s support of Obama during the 2008 election campaign and of new Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius during her confirmation process earlier this year. Both are proponents of abortion rights.

TEENS FOR LIFE — A new social networking online site is seeking to produce a generation of pro-life teenagers.

Teens for Life (www.teensforlife.com) provides a variety of features to help teens learn about abortion, as well as other sanctity of life issues, and to take a stand for the pro-life cause.

“This is the first time that the pro-life movement has actively embraced the power of social networking for the purpose of raising up a new generation of leaders,” said Mike Fichter, the site’s editor. “The future of the pro-life movement is here, and we’re giving it a voice of its own.”

Teens for Life is a national outreach of the Indiana Right to Life Education Fund.
Tom Strode is Baptist Press Washington bureau chief.