How Rent-A-Womb Industry In US Produces Babies For Chinese Parents

The industry of “rent-a-womb,” where surrogates in the U.S. have babies for Chinese parents, has been growing for around a decade. This mainly happens in California, as the state has lenient laws for commercial surrogacy and in vitro fertilization. Emma Waters, a researcher from The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Life, Religion, and Family, revealed this.

rent a womb

Surrogacy means one woman carries and gives birth to a baby for another person or couple. In China, this practice is completely forbidden. Due to this, Chinese couples use American fertility clinics. These clinics create embryos with the genetic traits of the Chinese nationals and then help deliver the baby in the U.S.

Because of U.S. birthright citizenship laws, a child born this way who might have entirely Chinese genetics automatically becomes a U.S. citizen. This child keeps all the rights of U.S. citizenship, as explained by Emma Waters.

When this child reaches 21 years old, even the parents can apply for a green card and eventually gain citizenship. Emma Waters added that this method “is a much faster and cheaper process than if they were to apply for citizenship through some of the traditional methods”.

Threat to National Security

Granting full American citizenship to foreign nationals by means of American women giving birth poses a significant national security concern, according to Ms. Waters.

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“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 absence of regulations and laws has enabled this scenario, Ms. Waters pointed out.

She proposed that the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, which examines Chinese investments in fields like entertainment, farmland, and media, should allocate more effort to investigating Chinese investments in Americans via Chinese children born in the U.S. through in-vitro fertilization and commercial surrogacy.

How Fertility Industry Works

Embryologist Ric Ross pulls out vials of human embryos from a liquid Nitrogen storage container at the La Jolla IVF Clinic on February 28, 2007 in La Jolla, California. (Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)

Chinese individuals, especially those in California, can collaborate with fertility clinics. They can opt to “either create an embryo using their own sperm and egg or they can purchase a sperm or egg,” Ms. Waters clarified.

While many come to the United States, they can technically stay in China and still form an embryo with current technology, she added.

“A Chinese couple or individual can simply work with a U.S.-based agency to send their reproductive material (sperm, egg, or embryo) to an IVF lab and implant it in a hired surrogate [in the United States] to produce a viable pregnancy,” Ms. Waters wrote for the Heritage Foundation.

Around 450 fertility clinics, mostly in California, were assessed by Ms. Waters, but there are many more beyond that area. She stated, “Many of these fertility clinics actually have a direct or indirect connection to China.”

These clinics commonly provide services in Chinese, and some even have doctors or administrators who formerly lived in China and moved to the U.S. to work in or establish a fertility clinic, Ms. Waters highlighted.

Mainstream media reports showed that certain fertility clinics mentioned that up to 50 percent of their annual clients were exclusively from China.

Ms. Waters shared a quote from a Chinese individual in some media. They stated that in the coming decades, either China or the U.S. would emerge as dominant forces. Therefore, having a child with dual U.S. and Chinese citizenship would offer the flexibility to choose their future residence, she explained.

According to Business Wire, the U.S. fertility clinic market will reach nearly $8 billion in 2022. It is projected to more than double by the end of 2028.

Changing Essence of Childbearing

The perspective on childbearing in the United States shifted in 1973 following the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Roe v. Wade case. This ruling invalidated state abortion laws and made the procedure legal nationwide, explained Ms. Waters.

“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.”

Ms. Waters mentioned that the concept of producing babies has parallels. With technologies like in-vitro fertilization and commercial surrogacy, parents could, for the first time, design a child according to their preferences or decide not to have one.

Around 75 percent of in-vitro fertilization clinics in the U.S. provide genetic testing for the embryos they create. This helps assess the possibility of conditions like Down syndrome or other untreatable illnesses, as well as the child’s sex, hair color, eye color, and skin color, noted Ms. Waters.

Due to the high cost of in-vitro fertility services, which range from $15,000 to $30,000 for a single round of embryo creation, clinics commonly generate multiple embryos at once, said Ms. Waters.

When considering legal, medical, and surrogate expenses, the total cost can amount to as much as $225,000 for this process to bring a child into the world, as described by Ms. Waters in the Heritage Foundation.

Parents can utilize genetic testing to select the preferred embryo, Ms. Waters explained. “If there are other embryos they might want in the future, they can freeze those.”

She added that there are currently over 1 million frozen embryos in the U.S.

“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.”

For those who believe life begins at conception, this destruction of embryos is tantamount to “the outright murder of these unborn children,” Ms. Waters emphasized.

Ethical Concerns

The expansion of the fertility industry is giving rise to significant human rights worries, as stated by Ms. Waters.

“The way the industry is structured, it’s meant to separate the processes 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 for and birthing.”

This conveys the idea that fertility clinics can assemble the ideal child based on parents’ preferences, implying that children are viewed as products to be customized for a perfect fit into their lives, remarked Ms. Waters.

Keep in mind that this is happening at the same time that Professor Katsuhiko Hayashi, a Japanese scientist at Kyushu University, is in the process of creating 100% lab-grown babies in five years.

In California, lawmakers introduced a bill requiring most health insurance plans to include coverage for in-vitro fertility services, be they for a single person or a same-sex couple, Ms. Waters reported 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.

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