In vitro treatments and surrogacy have been around for years, but in the U.S., the process can cost more than $100,000. In India, however, it costs only around $6,000. Welcome to the brave new world of outsourcing, where technology has turned "making a baby" into an act that is independent of sex, and globalization is making it affordable.
Beginning with sperm and/or eggs purchased online, the process of outsourcing pregnancy involves freezing multiple fertilized embryos, packing them in liquid nitrogen and shipping them to India, where they are implanted into the wombs of surrogates. The customers arrive only at the end of the nine-month pregnancy to pick up their babies. Google Baby follows several men and woman involved in egg donation and surrogacy in the U.S., Israel and India, including:
Doron, an Israeli entrepreneur who was inspired by his own experiences using a surrogate for his daughter's birth and started a service for "baby production," using eggs donated from the U.S. and surrogates in India.
Dr. Nayna Patel, who operates a surrogacy clinic in Gujarat, India, and sees her service as "one woman helping another."
Katherine, a 28-year-old American who has successfully donated eggs, and plans to donate again to help pay for her family's home remodeling.
Two women from Dr. Patel's clinic: Vaishali, a first-time surrogate who hopes to buy a house with the money she earns, and Diksha, whose first attempt at surrogacy ended in a miscarriage at five months, but wants to try again so that she can better provide for her son.
While surrogacy allows some women to make significantly more money (around $6,400) than they could otherwise, "wombs for rent" carry many risks. Dr. Patel explains to the women who come to her clinic to be surrogates that since all babies are delivered by cesarean section, they risk the possibility of blood loss and even death. She also reminds them that they will have no legal rights to the baby, even if they feel a bond to the child that they have carried.
When Doron proposes using egg donors from the U.S., fertilizing the eggs in America, and then shipping the embryos to Dr. Patel's clinic in India for surrogacy, she is hesitant, concerned that her facility might be seen as a "baby factory." Not everyone is accepted as a client at the clinic - only couples who medically cannot get pregnant and have no children, or just one child, can use her service. Dr. Patel's surrogates are closely monitored, given prenatal vitamins and instructed about healthy eating.
Director Frank explains, "The business aspects of the reproduction industry are intriguing, as well as frightening. With no real existing legal barriers to overcome and lots of money to be made, the human reproduction industry is steaming ahead, and a cold and distant business is emerging, guided only by the principles of the free-market dealing. Given the complexities and sensitive issues surrounding reproduction and birth, this could be very dangerous."
Google Baby director and producer Zippi Brand Frank was born in Tel Aviv, and studied at the Sorbonne in Paris before receiving a B.A. in law and journalism from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In 2005-2006, she attended Harvard University under a Nieman Foundation Fellowship, where she began researching pregnancy and birth outsourcing. Brand Frank is the director of a variety of TV documentary series, including "She Is in the Army Now," "Yerukot," "Somebody to Love" and "Wake Up Call."
Google Baby was produced and directed by Zippi Brand Frank; producer, Zvi Frank; cinematographer, Uri Ackerman; editor, Tal Rabiner; sound design by Itzik Cohen and Gadi Raz; original music by Karni Postel. For HBO: consulting editor, Geof Bartz, A.C.E.; supervising producer, Sara Bernstein; executive producer, Sheila Nevins.
Premieres June 16 on HBO2