August 9, 2008
JAIPUR, India (CNN) -- Baby Manjhi has no nationality, no legal mother and no clear path home from India to Japan to a father and grandmother who desperately want her.
"From deep inside my heart, I want to return immediately to my own country with my grandchild," said Emiko Yamada, the girl's grandmother.
At just two weeks old, Manjhi Yamada is stuck in legal limbo -- the offspring of commercial surrogacy and a divorce before she was even born.
Some countries and parts of the United States have banned surrogacy as a money-making venture, but India legalized it in 2002. Under the practice, infertile couples are matched with local women to carry babies for $12,000 to $30,000. Watch grandmother plead for baby's release »
It's a booming business, worth an estimated $445 million a year.
"Cheap mothers are available here. There is so much poverty. ... It's employment for them," says Dr. Sadhana Arya with India's Arya Hospital.
"You have treated the surrogate mother like an object, used her as a factory, produced something, given money for it."
But, she says, the final product "is a live child."
Arya, who is part of the team now treating Manjhi, says such pregnancies -- dubbed "wombs for rent" by critics -- can have a broader human toll. She feels especially anguished for the father and grandmother in this case.
"It is absolutely traumatic, especially for the grandmother, because they have a visa for a limited period of time," Arya said. "What happens if the period expires? How do they manage the problem? Where do they leave the baby? Where does the baby stay? Who cares for the baby?"
Baby Manjhi was created when a Japanese husband and wife paid a clinic in India to have the husband's sperm and an anonymous donor's egg implanted in the womb of an Indian surrogate.
The plan worked. But a few months before Manjhi was born, the Japanese couple divorced. The intended Japanese mother decided she did not want the baby as well.
She was born July 25 in Anand, a town near Ahmedabad in western India. Kaival Hospital, which contracted with the couple to create the child, has become extremely popular with foreigners from around the world who want surrogate children.
As soon as Manjhi was born, her father, Ikufumi Yamada, and grandmother traveled from Japan to pick her up and take her to her new home. But Indian law stopped them. In order to get a passport for the baby, the mother must be present.
In this case, neither the birth mother nor the mother who had originally sought the child wanted to be involved.
Manjhi's father looked into a legal adoption, but Indian law says a single man is not fit to adopt a baby girl.
The Japanese Embassy says it cannot help without some sort of travel documents from India as well.
"I think obviously India owes an obligation to speed up the legal and judicial process so that the child is able to travel as soon as possible," said Indira Jaising, a senior advocate for India's Supreme Court.
Then, with Manjhi stuck in legal limbo, she became sick and had to be hospitalized. Without her birth mother around, the tiny child refused to eat and became dehydrated. She also contracted septicemia.
Her father and grandmother were heartbroken as they found themselves in a legal mess with a sick baby girl in a country where they didn't know the law and didn't speak any of the languages.
The father, who happens to be a doctor, has gone back to Japan to see patients and seek further legal counsel. The 70-year-old grandmother, Emiko Yamada, has stayed put.
Uneasy about how the baby was created, she comes to the hospital to cradle her granddaughter day and night, and has become so attached, she says, she cannot imagine going home without Manjhi.
"I am very worried and stressed. Why can't they let her father take his child?" the grandmother says.
Arya is one of two doctors now caring for the child. Her hospital had nothing to do with the surrogacy. Baby Manjhi was brought to her hospital in Jaipur because the Yamadas had a friend there who could help them communicate.
The doctors have stabilized Manjhi. When they heard the extent of the child's legal jeopardy, their immediate reaction was to get personally involved.
"I think this should end. There should be stricter laws," Arya said.
From Japan to America, people are coming to India in droves for surrogates. Peter Kaestner with the U.S. Embassy in India says demands on its staff from U.S. citizens with surrogacy issues in India are on the rise.
"Half of the citizenship cases that they do now in Mumbai are from surrogates," Kaestner says.
In this case, it's a Japanese national who is facing the tangled legal and ethical issues surrounding the business of surrogacy.
As for Manjhi, there is hope. She has finally been issued a birth certificate with just her Japanese father's name on it, which might be enough to get her visa to travel to Japan.
"I will not leave India without her, no matter what," the child's grandmother says.
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© Photographer: Amaviael | Agency: Dreamstime.com
The relentless pursuit of "having children" leaves ethical dilemmas in areas of adoption & surrogacy, as well as assisted reproduction (donor eggs/sperm) ~ we need to ask ourselves the question: "Is "having a child" (at any cost) ethical for the child in question?"
Shouldn't adult adoptees have the SAME rights as others to know their original identity, own their birth certificate (unfalsified) and TRUE genealogical heritage? Not to mention the issue of ABANDONMENT by the TRUE biological parents SO THAT other's (who are not biologically related to the child) to raise him/her? At the expense of the child's stolen identity, lost genealogy, biological parents and family, and culture? ~ IT IS NOT RIGHT OR ETHICAL.
We need to rethink what we are actually doing to children and society as a whole with this inhumane practice due to the GREED of people who want "a child" at any cost, and the business people (disguised as benevolent adoption/surrogacy/fertility agencies) who benefit financially from this trade in human lives...LISTEN to the adult products of these practices. We are human-beings who go through life without knowing who we are, and finally having to GRIEVE the tremendous losses we have experienced ~ both ours and our children ~ for the benefit of others who are desperate to have "a child" at any cost, and who CHANGE our certificates of LIVE BIRTH into falsified, inaccurate LIES regarding our BLOOD identity, heritage, DNA, medical and family histories.
I've heard that within another few decades genealogists have determined that NO ONE'S family line will be truly accurate in America because of archaic adoption laws which AMEND birth records and seal them from the very ones they belong to. Martin Luther King once said that "Injustice for one will eventually bring injustice to all", and how true that is. Our society will eventually FALL, partly due to the deception and falsehood perpetrated on children in these type of businesses and the ensuing results. TRUTH is paramount to health ~ whether it is personal or societal.
Alex Haley, famous author of "Roots", wrote it best: "In all of us there is a hunger, marrow deep, to know our heritage—to know who we are and where we came from. Without this enriching knowledge, there is a hollow yearning. No matter what our attainments in life, there is still a vacuum, an emptiness, and the most disquieting loneliness."
© Photographer: Rolffimages | Agency: Dreamstime.com
Divorce of Japanese couple leaves girl
stranded in India
The Yomiuri Shimbun
Aug. 8, 2008
A baby girl born to an Indian surrogate mother, who made a surrogacy
agreement with a Japanese couple, cannot gain entry to Japan because
the baby has not been given any nationality since the couple divorced
after the agreement was made and only the father has claimed custody
of the baby, it has been learned.
The Japanese Foreign Ministry has told the father that, in accordance
with the Japanese Civil Code, the government cannot accept the
registration of the birth of the baby as a Japanese. The code grants
status of being the legally acknowledged mother to the woman who has
actually given birth to the baby.
To make it possible for the father to take custody of the baby, he
needs to go through the necessary legal procedures in Japan and India
to adopt the child, the ministry said. The baby will not be allowed
into Japan in the meantime, it said.
Regarding the pros and cons of surrogate births, the Science Council
of Japan--which regards so-called surrogate birth tours to developing
countries as questionable--compiled a report in April. The report said
a new law should be introduced to prohibit the practice of surrogate
According to foreign media, a doctor in his 40s from Ehime Prefecture
and his wife signed a surrogacy agreement with an Indian woman in
November last year. The Indian woman became pregnant and gave birth to
a baby girl on July 25 at a clinic in western India.
But the couple divorced in June before the baby was born, and both the
intended mother and the surrogate mother refused to take custody of
Although the father expressed his intention to adopt the baby, he was
forced to return to Japan when his visa expired. Currently, the man's
mother is looking after the baby in India.
It has yet to be clarified if the baby's biological mother is the
intended mother or the surrogate mother, sources said.
The father told The Yomiuri Shimbun that the child would not be
allowed to leave India under the current circumstances, and said, "I
don't know how much I can talk about this at this stage. I'm going to
leave the adoption of the child in the hands of a lawyer."
In India, there is no law covering surrogate births even though this
practice has become widespread for commercial reasons. Many surrogate
mothers are poor and choose to go ahead with the process because they
can receive payments of between 650,000 yen and 1.62 million yen.
"It's sad that a Japanese should be taking part in this exploitation
of a woman [living in poverty]," Tohoku University Prof. Noriko Mizuno
In Japan, there is no law to regulate surrogate births. The Japan
Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology has prohibited the practice in
its guidelines, and the Science Council of Japan compiled a report in
April also to ban surrogate births in principle.
While a law to regulate surrogate births is being studied, this case
will have a great influence on any such legislation, observers said.
In the past, a clinic in Nagano Prefecture has claimed to have
assisted in surrogate births, and TV celebrity Aki Mukai also made
headlines for using a surrogate to have a child. In addition, it is
reported that more than 100 Japanese couples have used surrogates to
have children in the United States.
At its last meeting, the panel raised the issue of "surrogate birth
tours" to developing countries.