--This story is the reason why I preach to intended parents, that they only work with doctors that have a proven track record, and that they have staff or a facilitator to help you through the process---
Green with her baby after passport authorities returned the infant to her. Picture by G Vijayalakshmi
Hyderabad, Jan. 28: An American abandoned her seven-week-old son, born of a surrogate Indian mother, on a bench at the regional passport office here after being refused an Indian passport for the baby so she could take him home.
It was all apparently caused by a misunderstanding, however, and has led to a happy ending.
J. Pearl Linda Van Buren Green, a 35-year-old New Yorker, had not been clearly told that her son, Emperor Kaioyus Van Buren Green, didn't need a passport to leave India.
She later explained she had acted in frustration after spending thousands of dollars over many months in her pursuit of a surrogate baby.Police have decided not to press charges of abandonment, which could have brought Green a jail term of up to three years.
Yesterday, Green was told the foreign ministry had decided to issue an identity certificate for the baby that would act as his travel documents. However, his father Eric Dalton Green, based in Jamaica and a citizen of that country, must first send a letter endorsing his wife's application for the certificate.
Green had arrived in India with seven samples of her husband's semen. After failed efforts in Mumbai and Goa, she came to Hyderabad about 18 months ago. At a fertility clinic here, the child was conceived with eggs donated by a lady from Rajahmundry.
Another local lady acted as the surrogate mother, delivering the child on December 7. Green then applied for a passport for the baby on the Tatkal route.
On Wednesday, she got frustrated when, after a two-hour wait at the passport office and an hour's verification process, she was told the passport could not be issued as the baby was not Indian.
The incident reflects the plight of foreigner couples who have surrogate children in India but whose own countries, lacking surrogacy laws, refuse passports to the babies. After two such children, born to Japanese and German couples, faced such problems in 2008 and 2009, the Supreme Court had shown the way out by directing they be issued identity certificates.
Green was apparently not told about this. After she walked out in a huff, the passport authorities found the baby on a bench in the office waiting room. They went through CCTV footage to ascertain what had happened. From Green's application, they identified the fertility clinic, which gave them the American’s local phone number.
We have asked Ms Van Buren Green to submit an application for an identity certificate for the baby,” regional passport officer K. Srikar Reddy said. I wish things would be cleared soon,” Green told reporters yesterday, adding that she could not afford to stay any longer in Hyderabad because of financial constraints.
Surrogacy has become a big business in Hyderabad and its neighbourhood, causing fertility centres to mushroom over the past five years. Many women from Andhra Pradesh’s drought-hit districts choose to become surrogate mothers to earn a few extra bucks for their impoverished families.
“We get reports of at least 50 to 100 such births in a month,” the state health secretary said. Only about five per cent of the parents are foreigners. “Most of the clients are women from well-to-do Indian families who want to avoid childbirth so that their lifestyle, or body shape, is not affected,” said Srinivas Prasad, a doctor at one of the city’s top 15 fertility centres.
A fertility expert said his centre had a list of “nearly 400 surrogate mothers” who could be contacted at short notice. “We charge about Rs 3-5 lakh per case,” he added. A surrogate mother receives between Rs 75,000 and Rs 1 lakh besides the cost of medicine and maternity expenses.
The same lady is not usually allowed more than three surrogate births but there has been one instance of one lady giving birth to five surrogate children.