As more same-sex couples across the U.S. decide to have children, many are looking south of the border for wombs.
Yet between complex laws and the lack of professionalism of some agencies, the experience can turn into a nightmare for both the surrogate and the intended parents.
One key reason why American parents would use a Mexican surrogate is the price. The average cost of a surrogacy in the U.S. is about $170,000, while in Mexico it maxes out at $64,000 — though is typically much lower than that.
“The surrogate in Mexico gets $14,000, plus living expenses paid for about a year and a half – that’s including taking care of her own kids,” says Lilly Frost, Program Director of Surrogacy Beyond Borders (SBB), an agency operating in Mexico from California.
For Mexican women renting out their womb, the money is good and their kids are taken care of. But the conditions are strict. They have to be over the age of 21 and under the age of 36, they must have had children in the past but no more than two prior pregnancies.
Yet poor living conditions of surrogate mothers in Mexico have been gathering attention, with reports that a lack of care has led to some HIV positive women spreading the virus to intended parents.
“There were some mistakes in the past, including the HIV situation, due to a difference of standard between the U.S. and Mexico. In the U.S., a clinic would never implant an embryo without a full medical informed consent disclosure,” says Frost.
However, Adrian Rodriguez Alcocer, a Mexican lawyer expert in surrogacy, believes surrogates in Mexico are exploited.
“It is very rare in Mexico that [intended parents] and a woman are in equal socioeconomic conditions. The majority of women involved see surrogacy as a way to improve their economic situation," he says. Overall, Mexican women supposedly receive less than 10 percent of the total charged to applicants.
Michelle Velarde, who used to work as a representative in Mexico for SBB, said conditions for surrogates have worsened.
“Two houses were rented in Cancun and a house was opened first in Tabasco, so on having had three houses, the expenses were rising and SBB did not want to deposit. On several occasions they cut the electricity of the houses and the surrogates were left without power.”