Elevate Difference

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.

Written by: Viannah Duncan, October 6th 2010

Hey Viannah,

I am intrigued by this documentary and when I have a moment plan to sit down and watch it in its entirety. I wanted to point out though my analysis on outsourcing surrogacy: This movie depicts how racialised women in the Global South are systematically exploited, their labour marganilised, and their "market" value considered that much lower in comparison to their privlieged, white counterparts in the North. What socio-economic and political context informs women's belief that their only option is to "sell" their bodies in order to meet theirs and their families (women are always implicated in the duty of having to provide for their family!) basic needs?

I question how much agency this Aasia had in making the decision to "sell" her body, apparently against her husband's wishes, when she lives in poverty and has the responsibility it seems to support her entire family. Surrogacy by racilised,poor and marganilised women from the Global South is exploitation, and advances racist, inequitable relations of power that are facilitated by free-market neoliberal globalisation.

Toni, thanks for your comments. I agree that the film brings to light some serious implications about racism, sexism, and the global community. I could probably write a 50-page paper on trying to explain everything the documentary made me think about and trying to sort it all out in my head, but I was only allowed a couple of pages for the review! I would like to delve deeper when I get the chance, though it doesn't look like that will be likely any time soon. If you watch the film, please link here and let me (us!) know what you think. I'd appreciate someone taking the time to sit down and really get at the heart of all of Made In India's issues.

Thanks for reading.