Countries Crack Down on “Surrogacy Tourism” as Global Demand Rises

What’s happening: The commercial surrogacy industry — one expected to be worth $129 billion by 2032 — is coming under the scrutiny of governments around the world.

  • The trend: An industry which is experiencing exponential growth has been influenced by the rising number of same-sex couples seeking children, by growing infertility rates, and for social reasons related to body image and career flexibility.

  • The pushback: A bill working its way through the Italian parliament seeks to make surrogacy a universal crime. In addition to banning payment for surrogates domestically, the bill would forbid international purchases of surrogacy services. Georgia is also regulating surrogacy to exclude foreign buyers.

Why it matters: Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni sees these proposed regulations as a defense of the family and human dignity. Members of her party have maintained that the practice of surrogacy violates nature, aiding in the destruction of motherhood.

Why the concern? Critics of commercial surrogacy have raised concerns over potential exploitation. While the U.S. criminalizes for-profit organ donation, commercial surrogacy remains largely unregulated, making the U.S. one of the most popular surrogacy destinations in the world.

  • Ethics: In commodifying pregnancy and childbirth, pro-family groups have maintained that the practice effectively treats women’s bodies as objects for sale.

  • Culture war: Many also criticize the U.S.’s surrogacy policy for prioritizing the desires of adults over children and ignoring the long-term psychological and physical damage that children might experience after being separated from their mothers.

  • Human trafficking? There is evidence that human traffickers sell trafficked women into surrogacy. Pope Francis declared that surrogacy turns a child into "an object of trafficking."