A new documentary, “Made in India,” has just been released and was recently profiled on PBS NewsHour. The film, directed and produced by Rebecca Haimowitz and Vaishali Sinha, featured Lisa and Brian Switzer, a couple in Texas who struggled for several years to have a child. Then, due to a medical condition, Lisa had to have a hysterectomy. Unwilling to give up their dream of parenthood — and unable to afford a surrogate mother in the United States — the Switzers sold their home and spent their life savings on PlanetHospital, a medical tourism company that works with surrogate mothers in India.
Also highlighted in the film was Aasia, the woman in Mumbai, India who served as the surrogate for Lisa and Brian. Aasia, who lives in dismal poverty with her three children, was paid $2,000 to carry the Switzer’s child. She could not use her last name and appeared on camera only with her face hidden by a veil to keep her identity a secret from her community.
“What should I say about myself?” said Aasia in the film, through an interpreter. “I used to clean people’s homes before. I’m not educated. I don’t know how to read or write. So this is my life… I’m doing this for my children. A son can earn anywhere, but I want to save this [money] for my daughter.”
The film showed Lisa and Brian rejoicing first at the news of Aasia’s successful pregnancy, and again as they brought home their twin daughters. But when their story was told on The Today Show, they were surprised and hurt by negative comments from others on the Today Show’s website. Several comments accused the Switzers of exploiting Aasia.
In response, Brian Switzer said, “The surrogates are well-compensated in line with their local economy. I have seen poverty unlike anything I could have imagined. And knowing what this process is going to do for the surrogate and her family in the long run makes me realize that this is a very good thing for all parties involved.”
“This woman is carrying a life that I can’t carry. She’s giving me the family I can’t create. I will never, never be able to thank her enough,” said Lisa Switzer.
The filmmakers told PBS, “At the time when we started filming, we noticed that any mainstream conversations around this issue tended to be very polarized: either promoting or condemning the practice. We wanted to bring a nuance to the story that would offer the audience a closer understanding of the intended couple’s and the surrogate’s choices behind their decisions. We wanted to take this intimate journey with all the players involved. Of course, we had no idea how the story would end up, but we trusted that if we let events unfold on their own, all the questions we were interested in exploring would emerge organically. As a result, the film really challenges viewers to come to their own conclusions about the practice.”