FaithWorld

from Photographers' Blog:

Birth in India’s “surrogacy capital”

Anand, India

By Mansi Thapliyal

A smooth, modern road in the prosperous Indian state of Gujarat leads to 35-year-old Chimanlal’s small, windowless brick hut that he lives in with his wife, young son and two daughters. Earning 2500 rupees ($38) a month as a driver, Chimanial says it is not enough to feed his children. Only his son goes to school. But in a year’s time, their lives are set to change.

Some 50 kilometers (31 miles) away is the small city of Anand, known as India’s “surrogacy capital”. Chimanlai’s wife is carrying a baby for a Japanese couple in which she will be paid 450,000 rupees ($7,200), an unimaginably large amount of money for a family like theirs.

Since 2004, over 500 Indian women have traveled to Anand from neighboring villages and towns to become surrogate mothers for families from nearly 30 countries. Dr Nayana Patel and her husband run Akanksha clinic, the city’s only surrogacy facility.

For nine months, the surrogate mothers live away from their families. They stay at a residency provided by Patel’s clinic. Wearing gowns covering their big bellies, the women pass their time by watching TV, talking on their mobile phones and chatting to each other. Some enjoy the experience and see it as break from their tough daily life, while others miss being away for so long from their husbands and children.

“I’m not ashamed of doing what I’m doing. I don't care what the neighbors think or what my relatives think because they are not the ones who have to feed my family,” Daksha, 31, Chimanlal’s wife, said. With the money she will earn, she and her husband plan to build a new house and send their daughters to school.

Filipinos flock to northern town for fertility dance for patron saint

(A boy is held up by his mother as hundreds of devotees dance and pray for children in an annual fertility procession in Obando, north of Manila May 17, 2011/Cheryl Ravelo)

Hundreds of couples flocked to a town in the northern Philippines to take part in a centuries-old ritual dance, honouring a patron saint believed to bring fertility. The ritual took place this year amid an increasingly acrimonious battle over a controversial bill promoting artificial contraception in this intensely Catholic nation.

Those seeking children packed into Obando by the thousands for the annual May ritual, inspired by miraculous stories of the babies it has brought. Couples dance in the two-hour long procession, swaying their hips to a traditional folk tune from bamboo and marching bands. The ritual is accompanied by a short chant and prayer to Saint Claire, the local patron saint of fertility, asking her to bless them with children.

Imperfections mar hopes for “ethical” reprogrammed stem cells

stem cell

(Institute of Cellular Medicine, in San Jose, Costa Rica, May 18, 2010/Juan Carlos Ulate )

When scientists announced five years ago they could reprogram ordinary skin cells into behaving like embryonic stem cells, religious conservatives and others who opposed the use of stem cells cheered the advance. But while they have proven to be a powerful new way to study human disease, the reprogrammed cells — known as induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells — are no substitute for embryonic stem cells.

“This has strong policy implications,” Dr. George Daley of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and Harvard Medical School said in a telephone interview. “It has not ever been a scientifically driven argument that iPS cells are a worthy and complete substitute for embryonic stem cells. Those arguments were always made based on political and religious opposition to embryonic stem cells.”