In January, Diet member Seiko Noda gave birth to a baby boy after years of medical treatments to help her become pregnant. The baby was the product of a third-party ovum that was acquired in the United States, fertilized with her partner’s sperm and then implanted in her uterus. Though the media initially reported the delivery as being problem-free and both mother and child coming through with flying colors, since then other reports have revealed that the boy is still in the hospital with serious health problems. The egg donor is said to be a young woman, but Noda is 50 and the older the mother is the higher the probability that there will be complications during gestation.
Noda could have reduced the chances of complications if she had opted to use a surrogate mother, but in that case the Japanese authorities would not have recognized the child as hers, which was a very important consideration for her. Nevertheless, surrogacy is becoming an increasingly popular alternative for Japanese couples who cannot conceive on their own and are not partial to adopting (which is almost all of them, since adoption of infants is, for reasons both cultural and legal, not as popular in Japan as it is in the West).
The problem is that there is no Japanese law regulating surrogacy, and the Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology disapproves of the therapy in principle. At least one doctor has bucked the society, however, and offers therapy to women who can’t have children on their own, but reportedly the surrogate mothers he uses have to be related to the patients. The principal recourse for Japanese women who want to use this method is America, where it costs anywhere from $20,000 to $120,000 depending on what the surrogate mother requests for her nine months of service.