JAIPUR, INDIA—Ever since Indian law decided to legalize commercial surrogacy in 2002, it has thrived enormously. Thousands of infertile couples from nations that prohibit money-making surrogacy come each year to match themselves up with women willing to carry their surrogate child. The service can cost as low as $12,000 (US), and there’s no shortage of willing mothers due to the rampant poverty and unemployment.
But one family isn’t getting their money’s worth due to legal complications. Ikufumi Yamada, a doctor whose daughter Manjhi is less than three weeks old, can’t bring his daughter home to Japan because of a mess stemming from abandonment by both his ex-wife and the birth mother.
According to a CNN report, Dr. Yamada and his then-wife paid an Indian clinic to implant his sperm and an anonymous donor’s egg in an Indian surrogate. However, the prospective parents divorced in the middle of the surrogate’s pregnancy, and the wife no longer wanted the baby. Manjhi was born on July 25. When Dr. Yamada and Manjhi’s grandmother, Emiko Yamada, came to Anand, India to take the surrogate child home, they found they could not get a passport for Manjhi without the mother present—and neither Dr. Yamada’s ex-wife nor the surrogate mother was willing to get involved. Indian law would not allow Dr. Yamada to adopt her because it prohibits single men from adopting infant girls, and the Japanese Embassy claims it requires travel documents from India in order to help out.
To make matters worse, Manjhi became ill: she was taken to Arya Hospital in Jaipur, where a local friend of the family helped them communicate with the Indian staff. At Arya, the infant refused to eat and then contracted septicemia. Dr. Yamada returned to Japan to get more legal advice on the case as well as see patients, while Mrs. Yamada has stayed in India with Manjhi.
However, Manjhi has recently received her own birth certificate with Dr. Yamada’s name on it. This may help the Yamadas acquire a visa for her, but time will tell. “I will not leave India without her, no matter what,” Emiko Yamada, 70, explained to CNN. She has grown much attached to Manjhi and has been publicly pleading for the child to be released from India. “From deep inside my heart, I want to return immediately to my own country with my grandchild… I am very worried and stressed. Why can’t they let her father take his child?”
“It is absolutely traumatic, especially for the grandmother,” Dr. Sadhana Arya, one of the doctors caring for Manjhi in Jaipur, was quoted as saying, “because they have a visa for a limited period of time. What happens if the period expires?… Where does the baby stay? Who cares for the baby?” She added, “I think this should end. There should be stricter laws.”
Indira Jaising, a senior advocate for India’s Supreme Court, told CNN, “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.”
The commercial-surrogacy industry in India is estimated to be worth around $445 million dollars annually, CNN reports.