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India’s seeks to regulate commercial surrogate industry

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There are no official figures on how large the fertility industry is in India. A U.N.-backed study in July 2012 estimated the surrogacy business at more than $400 million a year, with over 3,000 fertility clinics across India.

The Akanksha clinic in Anand is the best-known at home and abroad, giving the small town in Gujarat state the reputation as India's "surrogacy capital".

"The surrogates in Anand have become empowered through giving this beautiful gift to others," says Akanksha's owner, IVF specialist Nayana Patel, who shot to fame in 2004 after she helped a patient have a baby by using the woman's mother – the child's grandmother – as a surrogate.

"With the money, they are able to buy a house, educate their children and even start a small business. These are things they could only dream of before. It's a win-win situation."

Patel, who appeared on U.S. celebrity Oprah Winfrey's talk show in 2007, has produced more than 500 surrogate babies – two-thirds of them for foreigners and people of Indian origin living in over 30 countries.

Charging couples like Rekha and Daniel an average of $25,000 to $30,000, a fraction of the cost in the United States, Patel pays her surrogates around 400,000 rupees ($6,500).

For 33-year-old Naina Patel, who gave birth to Gabrielle, the compensation outweighs the downside. The wife of an auto-rickshaw driver with three daughters of her own, she had to live in a hostel for nine months with 60 other surrogates so the clinic could monitor her health.

Like most surrogates, she kept her pregnancy a secret due to the social stigma in India's conservative society.

"I was happy to do it but it was not really out of choice because we needed the money," she said in a hospital bed as she recovered from the Caesarean operation for Gabrielle's birth.

"BABY FACTORIES"

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