The “rent-a-womb” industry pipelines children born of surrogates in the United States to parents in China, a researcher said. Babies born this way automatically gain U.S. birthright citizenship.
Chinese “rent-a-womb” industry, has been burgeoning in the United States for about a decade, particularly in California, where laws regulating commercial surrogacy and in-vitro fertilization (IVF) are permissive, said Emma Waters, a research associate for the Center for Life, Religion, and Family at The Heritage Foundation.
Surrogacy, a practice where a woman carries a pregnancy and gives birth to a baby for another person or couple, is completely banned in China.
With birthright citizenship laws in the United States, that child, who may be 100 percent Chinese national in their biology and genetic makeup, actually gains and maintains the full rights of U.S. citizenship, Ms. Waters explained.
Threat to National SecurityGiving foreign nationals full access to American citizenship through the wombs of American women poses “a huge national security threat,” Ms. Waters said.
“If a child is born and raised in China, inculcated in their culture, and very loyal to their lands, when they come to the United States, they're not being flagged as a foreign national who's applying for a job or applying to work in a research lab—they are applying as a U.S. citizen.”
“There's not a database that's publicly available or easy to access where these children are being listed. And so should they apply for jobs, employers in government or private sector have no idea of the background that they're dealing with.”
The situation was made possible due to the lack of regulation and laws around this, Ms. Waters said.
How Fertility Industry Works
When Chinese nationals connect with a fertility clinic, particularly in California, they have an option to “either create an embryo using their own sperm and egg or they can purchase a sperm or egg,” Ms. Waters explained.
In many cases, they travel to the United States, but with the current technology, they are technically not required to leave China in order to create an embryo, she continued.
Ms. Waters reviewed recently about 450 fertility clinics, particularly in California, but there is many more outside of that. she said. “Many of these fertility clinics actually have a direct or indirect connection to China.”
She said that some fertility clinics interviewed by mainstream media stated that “up to 50 percent of their clients in a given year were from China alone.
Some media published sound bites from a Chinese national who said that in the next two decades, either China or the United States will come out on top so it makes good sense for them to have a kid with dual U.S. and Chinese citizenship to choose in which country they will live in the future, Ms. Waters said.
Changing Essence of ChildbearingThe way people in the United States view childbearing started changing in 1973 after the Supreme Court’s ruled in Roe v. Wade case setting a precedent that overrode the state abortion laws and legalized the procedure nationwide, Ms. Waters said.
“All of a sudden, children were no longer a natural part of marriage or a natural outcome of sexual intercourse, but instead, children became an option that parents could choose to opt into or opt out of.”
“The baby-making industry functions along the same lines,” Ms. Waters said. It was made possible for the first time through technology like in-vitro fertilization and commercial surrogacy to create a child according to parents’ desires or to opt out of.
About 75 percent of in-vitro fertilization clinics in the United States offer genetic testing of the embryos they create to assess if the child has a propensity for Down syndrome or another non-treatable illness, as well as the sex of the child, their hair color, eye color, and skin color, Ms. Waters said.
Since in-vitro fertility services are expensive, e.g., the cost of a single round of embryo creation ranges from $15,000 to $30,000, it is common practice for a fertility clinic to create multiple embryos at a given time, Ms. Waters said.
Through genetic testing, parents can select the ideal embryo that they want, Ms. Waters said. “If there's other embryos, they might want in the future, they can freeze those.”
There are currently over 1 million embryos frozen in the United States, she added.
“But if the embryos, for whatever reason, don't meet the parents' specifications-they're the wrong sex; they could have Down syndrome-those embryos are destroyed.”
Ethical ConcernsThe growth of the fertility industry raises “massive” human rights concerns, according to Ms. Waters.
“The way the industry is structured, it's meant to separate the process of conception, pregnancy, and childbirth between as many people as possible.”
“The surrogate [is told] not to have an emotional connection with a child that she is caring and birthing.”
This sends a message that the fertility clinics can put together the ideal child that the parents want, which tells parents-whether intentionally or not-that children are a product that can be designed to be the perfect accessory to their life, Ms. Waters said.
California’s legislature proposed a bill that requires most health insurance plans to cover in-vitro fertility services for a single person or same-sex couple, Ms. Waters wrote for the Heritage Foundation.
“Once a man purchases the egg, the womb, and the necessary paperwork, the line between a legitimate fertility service and outright baby-selling dissolves,” Ms. Waters wrote.
“What is “only” insurance coverage for IVF today becomes the human trafficking market of tomorrow,” Ms. Waters warned.