Rudy Rupak, chief executive of PlanetHospital, is a Canadian based in Los Angeles whose business interests and contacts stretch around the world. They have to, because Rudy’s business is making babies on a global scale.
In a hospital room on the Greek island of Crete with views of a sapphire sea lapping at ancient fortress walls, a Bulgarian woman plans to deliver a baby whose biological mother is an anonymous European egg donor, whose father is Italian, and whose birth is being orchestrated from Los Angeles.She won’t be keeping the child. The parents-to-be—an infertile Italian woman and her husband (who provided the sperm)—will take custody of the baby this summer, on the day of birth.
Rupak is building the global baby. People from around the world contact his US website and contract to pay an agreed fee. Rupak looks after everything else, from finding egg and sperm donors to harvesting and fertilizing eggs, implanting embryos in surrogates, arranging for deliveries of babies and getting them passports, all of which can involve people from many different countries. The entire process is completed for a base rate of about US$35,000, which; as many childless couples can attest, is a fabulous bargain. In the United States, hiring a surrogate alone can run as high as $200,000 and is not legally secure; despite signed agreements, there have been cases in America where surrogates have successfully sued for custody of the child they carried.
PlanetHospital’s most affordable package, the “India bundle,” buys an egg donor, four embryo transfers into four separate surrogate mothers, room and board for the surrogate, and a car and driver for the parents-to-be when they travel to India to pick up the baby. Pricier packages add services like splitting eggs from the same donor to fertilize with different sperm, so children of gay couples can share a genetic mother. In Panama, twins cost an extra $5,000; for another $6,500 you can choose a child’s gender.
Business is booming. PlanetHospital has completed 459 adoptions since it began operating in 2007. This year it had pre-signed 200 contracts by the time of the article’s publication, and 75 surrogates were currently pregnant.
Many factors drive surrogacy’s global spread. China and other big adoption destinations have toughened their rules in recent years. Some developed countries, including Japan, Spain, Germany, Italy and France, outlaw or severely restrict surrogacy at home. The United Kingdom prohibits surrogacy for pay, and in 2005 banned donor anonymity. Some U.S. states prohibit surrogacy for pay, and in recent years some have outlawed gay adoption.
Understandably, there are also complex legal issues surrounding the citizenship and custody of some of these babies. Surrogacy laws are also vague and can conflict from country to country (and, in the US, from state to state). In 2008, a Japanese couple (unrelated to PlanetHospital) contracted with an Indian surrogate and then divorced just weeks before the baby was born, invalidating the surrogacy contract. The result was a legal tangle involving Indian and Japanese citizenship laws that lasted for months and made it impossible for the Japanese father to take the baby home, even though she was his biological child. Finally, Japan issued a special humanitarian certificate to resolve the issue.
Occasional political wrangles involving the citizenship of PlanetHospital babies are settled in Rupak’s state of residence under California law. In its three years of operation and almost 500 adoptions, PlanetHospital says it has never been sued or taken to arbitration.
As our world becomes more global, and morality and tradition are invaded by science and technology, situations like this will become increasingly common. However, PlanetHospital points out that it is making many people happy while breaking no laws and forcing nobody into situations against their will. It does appear any objection to the operations of this business would have to be on religious grounds. “Our business,” says Rupak, “is agnostic.” And in fact, considering that he is supplying a service at a fair price and making a profit while hurting nobody, one would assume that American libertarians would be strongly supportive of his position.