Project

My American Surrogate: A Journey Into the Booming Phenomenon of Chinese Couples Hiring U.S. Surrogates

Since popular “fertility tourism” hotspots such as Thailand, Mexico, and India passed laws prohibiting international surrogacy beginning in 2015, California has become one of the last places in the world where commercial surrogacy remains legal—alongside countries such as Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, and select states in the U.S.

Meanwhile in China, rising infertility rates and the relaxation of the one child policy have created a demand for assisted reproductive technology that has quickly outpaced domestic supply. Many, who can afford to, turn overseas. With its sunny weather, a world-class fertility industry, full legal protection, and a plenitude of surrogates—Southern California has become the top choice destination for China’s elite and infertile who are willing to pay upwards of $150,000 to hire a surrogate to help create the family they have always wanted. As a result, a new unregulated industry of Chinese agents has sprung up in Southern California to help connect prospective Chinese parents with U.S. fertility and surrogacy services.

Leslie Tai's short documentary investigates the Chinese side of this booming phenomenon. In the summer of 2017, I lived inside of one budding Chinese surrogacy broker’s home business in Irvine, California to learn about the reasons that bring her clients to her doorstep, and to get an insider’s view of the complex relationship between Chinese intended parents and their American surrogates. When Qiqi, the surrogacy broker, suddenly decides to have a child via I.V.F. and surrogacy herself and asks me to document her entire process, the film takes on a new set of moral and ethical dimensions.