Revealing China's underground surrogacy market
"One congenital renal ectopia, two congenital heart diseases, and three premature births." Mr. Chen enumerated the "failed products" in more than 100 children by his surrogacy company last year.
The birth of these children means “failure deal". The client will hardly accept the child, and will not pay the balance, and the child will be deal with by the surrogacy agency.
Surrogacy is illegal in China, but huge demands and benefits have forced to a long-standing underground industry. The surrogacy industry chain consists of demanders, surrogacy companies, egg donors, surrogate mothers, doctors who perform surrogacy operations, and hospitals that issue birth certificates. The child is a "commodity" that is manufactured. You can choose the baby’s gender, single birth, or multiple births. If they have defects, they may be discarded. These underground commercial surrogacy behaviors challenge secular ethics.
At the end of August 2020, The journalists visited a number of commercial surrogacy companies in Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and other places. They found that, because of the pandemic, seeking surrogacy abroad was hindered, and orders for surrogacy agencies in China increased significantly, and egg donors (called "egg sister" in China). Compensation fees, surrogate mothers' commissions, and other expenses have also risen.
Even after some surrogacy agencies were wiped out by the police, they changed new places to keep their business running.
Behind the “100% success” promises of these agencies, there are so many risks of chaos, ethical and legal such as the exchange of donor eggs, non-biological, concealing fetal diseases, and birth defects.
The huge benefits behind “100% success with your wanted gender"
On the morning of August 25, Room 911, Building D, Phase II, Galaxy WORLD, Longhua District, Shenzhen, Guangdong. Mr. Xue looked at various WeChat workgroups and private messages on his phone. There are too many unread messages that filled the screen from top to bottom.
Most of the messages to him are from the client to consult surrogacy. The workgroup includes Mr. Xue, logistics staff, surrogate mothers, etc. If all goes well, a surrogate baby will be born by each workgroup.
Having been involved in the surrogacy market for 12 years, Mr. Xue established the "International Fertility Inheritance Center for Children and Heirs" and claimed to provide surrogacy services in overseas fertility hospitals for clients who have surrogacy needs in China. Since its establishment in 2008, it has served more than 8,000 families in total and helps them get more than 10,000 healthy babies. After discussing in detail, Mr. Xue admitted that most of the agencies known as overseas surrogacy companies are "false advertising" and their business scope is also "virtual." Almost all of them carry out surrogacy in China. Because of the pandemic this year, those who had overseas businesses have moved to the Chinese market.
"Gender can be guaranteed, and the package can be 100% successful.” Mr. Xue provided an agreement with ￥580,000 (USD $82,857) and ￥880,000 (USD $1,257,143.7). Both two packages promised that customers can get one healthy baby boy within 2 years. The former is ￥300,000 (USD $42,857) cheaper than the other which means if the first surrogacy is failed, clients have to pay additional fees to restart the process.
The pandemic has affected the underground surrogacy industry in China.
Many surrogacy companies said that after the pandemic spreading, some potential customers and surrogacy companies who originally expected to do surrogacy overseas have turned to China, and orders have increased significantly from April. Taking the "child inheritance company" as an example, the staff said that from April to now, there were more than 400 deals in four months, accounting for nearly 70% of last year, and there are still a large number of potential deals being discussed every month.
Following this, there are also compensation for egg donation and commissions paid to surrogate mothers. According to an industry practitioner, the total commission price for surrogate mothers has increased by ￥10,000 （USD $1428.5）to to ￥20,000 ( USD $2857.1) this year. With the further expansion of the surrogacy market demand, many surrogacy companies have changed their tradition of relying on specialized agencies to find a surrogate mother. They begin to recruit their own surrogate mothers.
It is driven by high profits.
Mr. Xue revealed that his company's turnover exceeded 14 million dollars last year, but it is not convenient to disclose its profits. Mr. Chen confessed that with an order of ￥700,000 （USD $100,000）to ￥800,000（USD $114,285）, they can make a profit of ￥200，000（USD $28,571） to ￥300，000（USD $42，857）, sometimes even higher than this.
Underground surrogacy chaos
In the investigation, the supervisor of several surrogacy companies did not want to mention the risks that may arise during the surrogacy process, only saying that there is no absolute safety.
According to an insider, the surrogacy industry itself is an underground industry in China, and it is difficult for surrogacy companies to be 100% authentic and transparent. The most common among them is fraud against customers, mainly in two aspects: exchange of egg donors and concealment of infant illness.
"In the process of finding a suitable egg donor, 60% of the companies will do the job of replacing the egg donor." Mr. Chen said, after the customer interviews the egg donor, the surrogacy company will arrange the low price girl to egg retrieval, and wait until the surrogate pregnant or even give birth. It's impossible for the client to refuse, it’s his son after all, but the mother is different.
In order to reassure customers, the surrogacy company will shoot videos of injections and egg retrieval of the egg donor who has already matched with the client before, and send the video to them when they want to check, but actually enter the operating room may be the other girl.
"You can cut a section of the egg donor’s hair in advance, and let the baby take a blood test to see if it is the same DNA." Mr. Zhuang provides a verification method to prevent egg exchange.
Concealing the baby’s illness is also chaos in the surrogacy market.
In order to avoid losses, if some surrogacy companies found the baby has health problems during the process of pregnancy, they would conceal the disease from the customer or provide a fake health report to them. A few weeks or months after the clients get their baby, the diseases will appear, but the surrogacy companies will not admit it.
After a dispute arises, the contract or agreement signed between the surrogacy company and the client will be deemed invalid due to violation of current legislation and public ethic, so the client can only suffer losses.
The surrogate mother gives birth to a baby weighed 7 kg. After the delivery, the child doesn’t cry. Later, it was discovered that the hospital had a medical accident during the delivery, the child was entangled by the umbilical and the surrogate mother refused to take the cesarean section. The nurse kept pulling and the child suffered from hypoxia in his brain, which caused cerebral palsy.
There are also clients who temporarily not want babies. A homosexual couple client in Xiamen paid the money, but when the child was about to be born, they had broken up and they discard their baby. Mr. Chen eventually gave the baby to others. If you regret it, say it earlier, we will have an abortion sooner." Mr. Chen said.