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TIFF review: Indian wombs-for-hire in Google Baby

kim hart macneill

A still from Zippi Brand Frank's film Google Baby

An Indian surrogate mother takes her first, and last, look at the child she has carried for another couple in this still from Zippi Brand Frank's film Google Baby

I saw the future of outsourcing at TIFF this week, and it’s not pretty. The award-winning documentary Google Baby follows Doron, who sees the need for affordable, outsourced babies after he and his partner spent $140 thousand having a baby in the United States. He forms a team of like-minded entrepreneurs across the globe and we get to watch them make a baby.

Couples come to him with their egg donor requirements, from skin colour to education level, and he helps them navigate an American egg eBay. He ships sperm to the United States for fertilization and follows most of the action from Israel via Skype. When the four-cell embryo arrives only weeks later, Doron packs his trusty liquid nitrogen tank in a suitcase and jets off to India to hand deliver it.

Dr. Patel finds Indian women willing to carry a baby in return for enough money to buy a small house for their own children. While she is kind and understanding with the women who live in her clinic for the better part of a year, she’s quite clear that this is a business, and they are her employees. The parents fly in for the delivery and then leave with the baby.

I’d always thought I was pretty open minded when it came to reproductive rights: your body, your choice, none of my business. But this movie has me thinking. Eggs harvested and then bought and sold online. Women with the most in-demand traits designated “premium” donors, while women without a place to hang their saris rent their wombs for $4,000 to $6,000.

Doron uses the word “production” so often you can’t help but wonder if he’s completely detached himself from thinking about the people involved. Patel spends most of the movie on her cell phone, even taking a call while stitching up a surrogate’s Cesarean incision.

While everyone in the film makes his or her own decisions, and gets what they want out of the deal, be it cash or a baby, it all seems a little too brisk for comfort.

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