The dreary design of the website and Facebook page of Find Surrogate Mother (aka surrogacy inc) makes depressing reading. The business describes itself as "a full service Surrogacy Agency in Manila, Philippines, helping to match Surrogate Mothers, Intended Parents, Egg Donors, Sperm Donors [which] provide[s] services for Heterosexual Couple, Gay Couple, Lesbian Couple, Single Woman, Single Man."
For desperately poor Filipino women, it must seem like a golden opportunity.
Unfortunately for them, the Filipino government is cracking down on what it describes as a "human trafficking syndicate". It detained four women on New Year's Day as they were about to leave Manila for Phnom Penh, there to be impregnated with the sperm of men from Australia, Germany, China and Nigeria. They were to be paid US$10,000.
Philippine Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said the police had uncovered "a new modus operandi of a human trafficking syndicate that preys on our Filipino women who are enticed to bear children of strangers for a fee because of their poverty".
Surrogacy for foreign clients is officially illegal in Cambodia, but surrogacy brokers are still active there, according to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald .
The incident shows just how flexible the surrogacy industry is. Only months after surrogacy clinics for foreigners were closed in India, Thailand, and Sri Lanka, they opened in Phnom Penh. According to the Herald, "The operators look for poor, lightly regulated countries that don't have laws dealing directly with surrogacy, such as Cambodia."
With the crackdown in Cambodia, the operators are simply shifting their business to Laos. One surrogacy agency operating there, Families Through Surrogacy , describes Laos in less than flattering terms: "a one-party socialist republic [which] espouses Marxism and is governed by a single party communist politburo dominated by military generals". It is "one of the most corrupt countries in the world" which has "created major problems with the rule of law, including the nation's ability to enforce contract and business regulation".
No wonder that surrogacy businesses are flocking there.