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Infertility & Reproduction Health Center

Womb for Rent: Surrogate Mothers in India

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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 India."

The temperature at 9 a.m. the following morning is pushing a brain-melting 107 degrees. Najima Vohra, immaculately dressed in an electric-blue tunic-and-pants set, arrives at the clinic an hour early for her meeting with Ordenes so they can bond a bit more before the procedure begins. It's not the most intimate venue, but Vohra is uncomfortable being seen anywhere else — like most women here, she plans to keep her surrogacy a secret. Vohra is slim, and her long hair is tied back with a plain rubber band. "I couldn't wait to get here," she says through a translator, sitting in a plastic chair in the lobby. "I've been so excited since Dr. Patel chose me to be a surrogate that I haven't been able to sleep."

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