Made in India
Made in India is a documentary about the growing trend of infertile American couples who outsource a surrogate pregnancy to a woman in India. The film follows one such couple, Lisa and Brian, from San Antonio, Texas, who have experienced seven years of infertility. They don’t have a lot of money (“by American standards, anyway,” they say) and are taking their last chance to start a family of their own on by using a “medical tourism” agency based in Los Angeles called Planet Hospital.
Made in India also follows Aasia, the woman chosen to become the surrogate for Lisa and Brian. She is married and already has three children. Her sister-in-law introduced her to the idea of surrogacy, and when asked about her choice, Aasia says (in Hindi), “A child without a man?! How can that be? There has to be some kind of a… ‘relationship,’ right?!” Nevertheless, she decides (against her husband’s wishes, no less) to become a surrogate in order to help provide for her children, especially her daughter.
The American couple visits India twice: once to have their egg and sperm extracted and deposited into Aasia (who they never meet during the trip), and a second time after their twin daughters are born. The babies are born more than a month earlier than anticipated in a hospital that doesn’t have a direct connection with the Planet Hospital agency. Lisa, Brian, and Aasia have to convince the hospital's administration that the babies belong to the American couple, not the Indian surrogate. It’s such a mess that even the American Embassy has to get involved.
I was surprised by how much this film made me care about the issues it brings up. I have never tried to have a child, and I hadn’t thought much about the lengths couples go to in order to start a family. Lisa and Brian made clear that, although they had thought about adopting, they decided against it until they had exhausted all the other biological options. Since having an Indian surrogate was an option they could afford, they went for it.
Made in India was well made, and thoroughly covered the couple’s journey from their commitment to Indian surrogacy until they got their daughters home. The film complicates the typical equation of becoming pregnant, giving birth, and what it means to be a mother. Even though she hadn’t carried them to term, the twins are Lisa's daughters, genetics and all.
Made in India gave me a lot to think about in the debate over who has a right to women’s bodies, surrogacy and adoption, and outsourcing employment to other countries from the United States. One may not fully agree with the decisions that are documented in this film, but it is thought-provoking nonetheless.