The familiar image of international surrogacy until now has mainly involved Americans and Europeans crossing the world to find women to birth their children. Now, wealthy Chinese couples are seeking surrogates in the US. The practice—a new version of Chinese “birth tourism”—offers a solution to rising infertility in China, a way around Chinese population controls, and even the added bonus of US citizenship for babies born in the States.
For years, pregnant Chinese women have come to the US, mainly to the West Coast, to give birth to baby US citizens who can, at the age of 21, sponsor their parents for green cards. In a new wrinkle, some are instead paying American women to carry their children—a way of getting citizenship as well as dealing with the fact that more Chinese couples are facing trouble having children. (Other surrogacy destinations for wealthy Chinese include Thailand, India, and Ukraine, but the US is still the favorite.)
According to a report on National Public Radio (NPR), surrogacy agencies in California say that the trend has taken off since 2009, as news of these services were passed on through word of mouth. One agency, West Coast Surrogacy, says that almost half of its clients waiting for a surrogate mother are from China. US fertility clinics and surrogacy operations have been creating Chinese language websites and staffing up with Mandarin speakers to cater to their new clients:
As we’ve reported, infertility in China has risen fourfold over the past three decades to 12.5%, according to the last government study on the topic in 2010—a trend researchers blame on pollution, as well as couples marrying later. That means over 40 million Chinese are considered infertile. Others that seek surrogates include gay men or couples who can’t have a second child because of family planning laws that limit many urban couples to one child—though those rules are being relaxed.
The expenses of surrogacy are not insignificant. One couple interviewed by NPR paid $275,000 for the process. Another Chinese agency charges between $120,000 and $200,000. Surrogate mothers are usually paid between $22,000 and $30,000, and prenatal care and other additional fees can cost up to $16,000. And couples who need an egg donation are likely to pay another $15,000.