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Reproducing Racial Capitalism

TODAY IT IS POSSIBLE for an individual or couple to purchase an egg from a woman living in, for example, Spain or Romania and have it fertilized, frozen, shipped, thawed, and implanted into the womb of a surrogate living in Mexico or Laos. Nine months later, they can travel to pick up the transnationally reproduced offspring, usually from a third party that has orchestrated this complex international exchange and reaped a substantial profit. After the market transaction, those euphemistically referred to as “intending parents”, but more accurately described as “consumers”, can transport their lively product to their home—in the United States, Canada, Israel, or elsewhere. Upon arrival it may live life no longer as a commodity but as a citizen.

The explosion of the transnational reproductive economy has been facilitated by two developments. As the flow of babies through international adoption has been staunched by national bans on infant export, people seeking to create families are increasingly turning to transnational reproduction involving purchase of eggs and gestational surrogacy. Additionally, proliferation of egg freezing corporations that transport cryo-preserved ova around the globe, on demand, has begun to eliminate long waits for eggs in nations that restrict their vending and donation. By 2020 the international assisted reproduction industry is projected to be worth $21 billion, with the U.S. sector cornering 30 percent of this market. The roughly 8 million babies born to date through in vitro fertilization (IVF) will likely be joined by millions more in the future. While multisite reproductive arrangements may not yet be routine, they are on the way to being common.

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