Womb for Rent: Surrogate Mothers in India
By some estimates, Indian surrogacy is already a $445-million-a-year
Jessica Ordenes is a petite yoga-school proprietor from New Jersey. Hot,
disoriented, jet-lagged, and alone — her husband, David, will join her in a
week's time — she is sitting in an empty doctor's office at the Akanksha
clinic, sipping fresh coconut juice and waiting for her daily hormone
injection. A girlishly pretty woman with dark hair pulled back in a ponytail,
Ordenes wears a crisp green shirt and a liberal slick of lip gloss ("to
stop my lips from shriveling up in this heat," she explains after numerous
reapplications). She has come to Anand because she felt, at age 40, that she
was nearly out of time.
Unable to get pregnant but still ovulating, she spent years unsuccessfully
trying to arrange for a surrogate in the States to carry her biological child.
"I was running out of eggs, running out of hope, and running out of
patience with being treated like a number in the U.S. system," she says.
"I read about this clinic online — I felt India was my last
Ordenes arrived a few days ago, checked in to the only hotel in town with
air conditioning, and arrived within hours at the clinic, where she began
having hormone treatments to stimulate her ovaries. In about 10 days, the eggs
she produces will be extracted and fertilized with her husband's sperm. Two
days after that, if all goes according to plan, some of the resulting embryos
will be implanted into local surrogate Najima Vohra, a 30-year-old mother of
two. Ordenes knows very little about the woman she hopes will carry her baby.
She has met her only once, during a short session with Patel on the first
Ordenes is not childless. She had a daughter at age 20 with her first
husband, but her uterus became infected after a C-section, and she had to have
it removed. Her marriage ended soon after. Three years later, she met David, a
pharmaceutical executive and the love of her life. Not being able to have a
baby with him tormented her. "I come from a huge family, and I always
wanted a house full of kids," she says. Ordenes hoped for at least one
child with David "to make our union complete."
The couple, who live in a sprawling house in the suburbs, started to think
seriously about surrogacy seven years ago. Ordenes tried local agencies but
learned that willing candidates were scarce because New Jersey state law
decrees that surrogates cannot receive payment. She found herself languishing
on waiting lists and frustrated by potential surrogates who backed out. "It
was the most demoralizing experience of my life," she says.
As she sits in the empty doctor's office, a young Indian man wearing a red
T-shirt and stonewashed jeans enters the room. Without a word, he proceeds to
stick a needle in Ordenes's arm and fill a syringe with her blood. She looks up
at him quizzically — she has no idea who he is. After he leaves, she examines
the livid red dot left behind on her skin for a second, then shrugs. "So
anyway, the years disappeared, and now, as you can see, here I am in