Accepted Paper:

The Market for Wombs: A Study of the Transnational Surrogacy Industry in Mexico  

Author:

April Hovav (University of Southern California)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing on ethnographic research in Mexico, this study explores the processes through which international networks, complex regulatory regimes, and local economies converge in the formation of international surrogacy programs, and how, in turn, women’s bodies are refashioned to serve global markets.

Paper long abstract:

Over the past decade, a multi-billion dollar global surrogacy industry has emerged in which intended parents cross national borders to contract women to gestate and birth a child. This global industry exists in part because surrogacy is banned in many jurisdictions, either entirely or for certain groups like same-sex couples, and in part because of the cost variation of contracting a surrogate mother in different countries. The landscape of the transnational surrogacy industry is constantly shifting as surrogacy destinations shut down due to regulatory changes and others emerge in their place to meet market demand. Using the Mexican surrogacy industry as a case study, I explore how international networks, complex regulatory regimes, and local economies converge in the formation of new transnational industries and how, in turn, women's bodies are refashioned to serve global markets.

The state of Tabasco, Mexico rose to prominence as a global surrogacy destination, particularly for gay men, after restrictions on surrogacy were announced in India in 2013. In December 2015, the congress of Tabasco shook up the industry by passing a bill limiting surrogacy to Mexican heterosexual couples. Drawing on ethnographic research in Mexico over the past two years, my study looks at the creative ways that markets respond to changing regulations. Based on interviews with a range of actors in the Mexican surrogacy industry, my research illuminates the processes through which different places become "visible" or legible as possible surrogacy tourism destinations and which wombs become "available" as a result of these global searches.

Panel T166
Biotechnology, Personal Identity, and Boundaries Across the Globe