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Shake Your Baby Maker

It was easy to dismiss surrogate motherhood as exploitation when an increasing number of American military wives and impoverished women in India were reportedly turning their bodies into moneymakers last year. Like a scene out of Margaret Atwood's 1985 novel, The Handmaid's Tale, some Third World womb workers were signing contracts with their thumbprints because they didn't know how to read or write. Pretty disturbing.

But you can't blame lack of education for all the Suburban Sues now looking to reinvent themselves as Baby Makers as they struggle to keep their families afloat. The Palm Beach Post's Dianna Smith recently reported that South Florida fertility clinics are receiving as many as 20 calls a month from women looking to donate their eggs for $5,000 or carry a stranger's baby for $25,000 and up. The Palm Beach Fertility Center west of Boca Raton used to have only one catalog of donors. Now there are two binders with a total of 100, including blondes, brunettes, whites, blacks, Asians and Jewish women.

"I couldn't find a job. I didn't know how to take care of my babies,'' said one woman, who is being paid $25,000 by a South Florida couple for her current pregnancy. "The economy is so bad. It's a way for me to be there for my family."

I can see the new craigslist job category now: WOMB WORKERS. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Have these women taken a maternity leave of their senses? Or are they smart mompreneurs who have discovered the ultimate work-from-home option?

Yes, it's unsettling to think of a woman's body as a commodity. But if these women choose to legally broker their own bodies, who are we to question their sanity, if not their ethics? Are we at the point where renting your womb for nine months is an empowering decision if the end result pays for home ownership, healthcare or an education?

Most of Europe, as well as 12 states, ban the practice of surrogacy. But enterprising Florida is among four states that have passed laws in the past five years to legalize it, joining more than a dozen others that allow and regulate the practice.

Don't judge a womb renter until you've walked a mile in her swollen ankles. Me? I'd rather apply for a microloan.