Having Our Baby: The Surrogacy Boom

Hundreds of Canadian women have babies for strangers for free. Explore Canada's exploding surrogacy business.

Heather Chaput is having a baby.  Her blood pressure is dangerously high. She risks a stroke, so she’s having her labour induced. It’s one thing to put your life on the line for your own baby. But imagine doing this for someone else – essentially a stranger.  Heather is a surrogate mom.

Having Our Baby presents a thoughtful look into the complex issues surrounding surrogacy in Canada. See the results of our interactive poll.

Surrogacy has exploded in Canada and around the world.  With infertility tripled in the last three decades and the sanction of same-sex unions, there’s a surge in couples seeking babies. Having our Baby:The Surrogacy Boom plunges viewers into the heart of one of life’s most difficult, intimate decisions by following two Canadian couples and their surrogates on a journey fraught with emotional, legal and financial hurdles.  Will it end in joy, or crushing disappointment?

Surrogacy In Canada Has Increased 400% in 10 Years: More Facts

Heather Chaput, of Edmonton, Alberta has dreamed of being a surrogate since she was 12. She contracted with Sarah and Jason Geisler, also of Edmonton, to carry their 2nd child.

VIDEO EXTRA: Heather Chaput is putting her life on the line to have a baby for strangers. Find out why.

Phil Malo and Phil Robert of Montreal  met surrogate Eilise Marten of Woodstock, Ontario, through an agency. They are using the services of Dr. Clifford Librach of Toronto’s Create Fertility Clinic. Dr. Librach advertises “one of the most extensive programs to provide services for the LGBT community in the world.”

Surrogacy is an expensive process, with fees to fertility clinics, surrogacy facilitating agencies, lawyers and therapists.   Pretty well everyone gets paid, except for the mothers themselves.  Surrogacy is legal in Canada, but only if it’s altruistic, meaning moms can be compensated for expenses only, leaving a host of critics – ethicists, surrogacy agencies, politicians and feminists – clamouring to change the law.

The Mind-Blowing Altruism of Canadian Surrogates
Navigating the Legal Details For One of Canada's First Surrogacies

Professor Vida Panitch:  I think that commercial surrogacy would be less exploitative than currently expecting women to do this purely on an altruistic basis. Being pregnant - they call it labour for a reason. It's work.

Others, like ethicist Margaret Somerville,  are appalled by the idea and argue for the status quo.“I want a Chanel hand bag and I want a baby and you know I'm prepared to pay for both and I think, I think that's wrong.”

Until recently, couples contracted with women in countries like Mexico and India to carry their babies. These countries have now banned commercial surrogacy because of abuses. So suddenly Canada finds itself a very attractive reproductive tourism destination.

Take our interactive poll
oney Not An Motivation For Canadian Surrogates

Sally Rhoades-Heinrich of Surrogacy in Canada Online, “Their other option is the U.S., where $36,000 is the average amount that they're receiving to be a surrogate. Then a hospital does a C-section. A month in ICU, maybe twins. And Canadian women are free. And we have a free health care system. Wow!”

Yet for couples desperate for a child,  the cacophony of controversy and criticism disappears with the delivery of their newborn.   Toronto lawyer Cindy Wasser spent over $100,000 on each of her children’s surrogacies.“I often say to my husband, "how much more?" And there's no answer.  There's never an answer. They're priceless.”

Additional digital content related to this topic, can be found at Having Our Baby: The Surrogacy Boom, produced with financing from the TELUS Fund.