Commercial surrogacy has gone global in the last decade, and India has become the international centre for reproductive tourism, boasting numerous high-quality and low-fee clinics. The growth of the surrogacy industry in India raises serious concerns of global gender justice, in particular whether the option is inordinately enticing for women who lack other remunerable options and whether the conditions are adequate and the compensation fair. In this paper I argue that the moral harm of global commercial surrogacy lies in the exploitative nature of transactions involving unequally vulnerable parties. More specifically, I argue that the practice exploits Indian surrogates on the basis of an inter-contractual failure of both justice and consent. I go on to consider an important objection to my use of exploitation as the relevant conceptual tool of analysis. The ethnographic challenge holds that the exploitation lens Occidentalizes surrogacy by conceptualizing the practice in universalizing terms, thereby eclipsing the particularities of the global surrogate's lived experience. I respond by showing that in fact the exploitation and the ethnographic models are not so at odds as they might seem. Provided we are careful in our use of the former to nuance our analysis by appeal to narrative evidence supplied by the latter, we are thereby best situated to identify and address the moral difficulties generated by commercial surrogacy under conditions of global injustice.

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Keywords Commercial surrogacy, Exploitation, Justice, Reproductive rights
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Journal Journal of Global Ethics
Panitch, V. (2013). Global surrogacy: Exploitation to empowerment. Journal of Global Ethics, 9(3), 329–343. doi:10.1080/17449626.2013.818390