Last week the Mexican state of Tabasco outlawed surrogacy for foreign and gay clients, limiting eligibility to straight Mexican couples who can produce a medical certificate proving the woman's inability to bear a child.
Mexico is the latest in a series of countries to tighten regulations and specifically exclude gay people — leaving only the United States as an option for prospective gay dads living in the U.S. or in countries where surrogacy is illegal.
Tabasco legislators pointed to instances of abuses in India and Thailand — who have already implemented similar restrictions — to paint a grim picture of what’s happening in Mexico. But they need not look further than their own state: Mexican women have suffered insufficient medical care, selective fetal reductions, inadequate or abusive living arrangements, financial burdens and more in the hands of unregulated surrogacy agencies.
Swiss researchers Carolin Schurr and Laura Perler conducted a two-year study of Tobasco's surrogacy industry, released prior to the vote. In an article detailing their study results, they call the new law "an easy way out of a complicated issue that does not require seriously engaging with the structural problems that ‘force’ women to sell their reproductive labour."
Tobasco is the only state in Mexico to have permitted surrogacy, and the law only allowed for "altruistic" surrogacy. Since it was illegal to pay a surrogate, the entire industry operated on loopholes.
Schurr and Perler say the lack of legal protection made surrogates more vulnerable to abuse. Now, they warn, the industry will just be pushed underground.
"Banning surrogacy, as Mexican feminist voices rightly point out, will result in a black market where surrogate mothers work outside of government control and are therefore excluded from any legal protection," they say.
Surrogacy agencies in Tabasco have begun to take legal action against the state — along with launching a Change.org petition — arguing the new law violates Article 4 of Mexico’s constitution, which states:
"Men and women are equal before the law. This will protect the organization and development of the family. Everyone has the right to decide in a free, responsible and informed manner about the number and spacing of their children."
The United States now offers the gay community's only option for international surrogacy. India, Nepal, Thailand and Mexico became surrogacy destinations because they offered the services much more affordably than the United States. With each of those countries turning international (and, in many cases, predominantly gay) clients away, Schurr and Perler predict new alternatives to the U.S. will soon pop up.