They’ve been called “baby factories,” conjuring up images of poor, illiterate women packed into bunks and forced by their husbands to bear surrogate children for Westerners. And they make up a vital industry in India—since 2002, when surrogacy was legalized in the country, a U.N.-backed study estimates that the surrogacy business has earned more than $400 million a year.
The second floor of Crystal Travis-McRae’s townhome in Laurel, Md. is about as full of playtime paraphernalia as a room can get. Crayons, light sabers, Dora the Explorer dolls… it’s all here. And it needs to be. McRae has a 4-year-old son, Mark, along with 2-year old twins: Alec, and his sister, Elle.
At 53, he is married and has two daughters, 15 and 8, but he has the restless energy of a first-time father. “Just looking at the pictures every night, I pray for them. I tell them good night. I kiss them, and I say, ‘This looks like it’s real.’”
In separate photos, the twins are wrinkled and pale. Both boys lie on a blue-green hospital sheet—one with limbs outstretched, the other curled up—and their faces are scrunched; perhaps they’re crying. The twins’ father, Trevor1 flips back and forth between the two photos on his cellphone.