Series Review: Netflix’s The Surrogacy
If you’re a Netflix subscriber, The Surrogacy (Madre de Alquiler), a Mexican telenovela drama might have caught your eye as a top 10 Netflix series in the US. It is a 24-episode drama that features a young girl who becomes a surrogate for a young and wealthy married couple. You might wonder as we did whether there will finally be a TV series with a nuanced, informed look at surrogacy or surrogates? In this series review blog, we will discuss the first two episodes for its depictions of surrogacy and its legal accuracy.
The story opens in 2004 when surrogacy is still illegal in Mexico. Despite this, an influential and corrupt family targets Yeni, a young, naive woman who finds herself in a desperate situation when her father's freedom is on the line. To save her father, she agrees to become a surrogate for Julia and her husband, Carlos, who is heir to a powerful company. After successfully delivering the babies, everything changes.
Depictions of Surrogacy and Its Legal Accuracy
Sadly, the series makes very little effort towards factual accuracy. It is something of a legal and factual train wreck in how many things it can get wrong. Here are some inaccuracies spotted early on:
Yeni, the surrogate, has never given birth before. Under ASRM guidelines, surrogates must have experience delivering babies so that the doctors know they are ideal candidates without complicated deliveries. Yeni would be a very unlikely candidate for a couple’s last embryo when there’s no telling if she has a history of miscarriages or whether she would deliver full term, or whether she would become attached or have psychological issues having never had a child before.
Yeni agrees to be a surrogate after a short meeting while under pressure the whole time. She has no consultation with a doctor about the risks. It is also unclear whether she is compensated other than the room and board. Altruistic journeys happen between friends or family, not among strangers. Confinement in surrogacy is also a major red flag.
In one scene, the family lawyer attempts to convince the doctor who will perform the IVF Procedure that she should do it even though surrogacy is illegal, it might eventually become legal in Mexico. She makes some inaccurate statements that surrogacy has a negative emotional impact on the surrogate and child.
The intended parents have one embryo which splits into a boy and girl which is not scientifically possible.
As a typical trope, the husband has an affair with Yeni, possibly impregnating her. This should not happen in gestational surrogacy arrangements.
The family abandons one of the babies with Yeni.
With regard to legal accuracy
Yeni’s attorney (though she never actually retains him) is her dad’s criminal defense attorney who does not have her best interest at heart. In many states, the surrogate must have her own attorney of her choosing, ideally one who is a certified specialist of third-party reproduction law.
The surrogacy contract appears to be just a two-page contract which Yeni has just a few minutes to review and sign it. Later, Yeni is repeatedly told that because she signed it, she is bound by the contract when it should be void as surrogacy is not yet legal in Mexico and apparently doesn’t give her the freedom to terminate the agreement.
There is no confirmation of parentage through a court or administrative body, instead they do the old "baby swaperoo” whereby Julia pretends to deliver one of the children the day of the delivery.
What about Surrogacy in Mexico today? Surrogacy in Mexico is somewhat a legal gray area. Previously, only the state of Tabasco recognized surrogacy. Recently, there has been an increase in commercial surrogacy in Mexico as apparently a Mexican Supreme Court decision legalized compensated surrogacy. Some Americans have been able to utilize surrogacy in states outside of Tabasco, however, if there is no law passed in the state of the Mexican surrogate, the surrogate may be listed as the mother on the birth certificate. To remove the surrogate and replace them with a spouse or partner on the child’s birth certificate, a stepparent adoption or confirmatory adoption will be needed in the United States, and this will require the consent and cooperation of the Mexican surrogate.
The Surrogacy, Netflix's latest Mexican drama, launched its 24 episodes of its first season on June 14, 2023. Given its popularity, many must find this a campy romp. But don't expect any kind of accuracy or insights as to surrogacy in Mexico or elsewhere. We just noted some of the inaccuracies in the first two episodes. Hopefully, viewers of The Surrogacy will know that outside the drama, surrogacy can be normal, ethical and not exploitative.
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