Hedva Eyal 

_MG_8750“Quiet, Dependent, Nice and Loyal”: Surrogacy agencies discourse of international surrogacy

Surrogacy, and assisted reproductive technologies more broadly, have transformed in the recent decades into a global market, which as many commentators already showed, has transformed reproductive practices, desires and ideals worldwide. This market is largely motivated and shaped by entrepreneurs and for profit agencies, yet there is very little data and analysis of the operation of Cross Border Reproductive Care (CBRC) brokers. In this paper we are setting cross-border surrogacy mediation at the centre of our analysis, evaluating the discourses that brokers use in marketing surrogacy practices to potential clientele.  Our research is based in Israel, examining the operation of Israeli CBRC agencies and “consumers”, offering services of surrogate women and egg sellers located mostly in Eastern Europe or from India.

The research data is drawn from the websites of all Israeli agencies and organizations who marketed cross-border surrogacy between 2013 to the end of 2014.  This data was used as basis for critical discourse analysis, illustrating the manner in which surrogacy brokers depict their commerce, the women who take part in it and the resulting familial makeup. As we discuss, the manner in which the trade is discursively framed affects the conditions under which surrogacy contracts operate.

Our findings illustrate how the marketing discourse often utilizes current criticisms of surrogacy:  surrogacy agents appeal to notions of women rights, career choices, and their desire to care for their families. At the same time, the marketing language also presents surrogacy as a trade, operating as a mixture of market economy and social relations. Intimate social gestures, which signify human relationships and desire for children and family making are priced and marketed by the economy industry for the benefit of intermediaries and service providers.

Hedva Eyal is a doctoral student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Here research deals with the regulation of medical experiments on humans in Israel. In the recent years she took part in policy design in the sphere of reproductive technologies in Israel. She served for five years as the head of the Isha L’Isha (Woman to Woman) organization. She was the founding director of the “Women and Medical Technologies” project at the Isha l’Isha – Haifa Feminist Center. The project deals with feminist ethics and policy change concerning medical technologies such as ova donations, surrogacy and abortions.