Becoming a surrogate mother seemed like a natural option for Kelly Martinez, who enjoyed helping people and liked being pregnant.
Just 20 years old, she thought working with big surrogacy agencies was a safe way for her to help couples have a family.
Instead, however, she says she was instructed to lie to the French consulate about being the biological mother of the children she was carrying. She was told to sign legal papers in French, which she did not understand. She did not receive a copy of the documents, and no translator was offered to her.
Ultimately, Martinez says she was manipulated, lied to, locked in a legal battle, and left with a stack of medical bills. She now sees the surrogacy industry differently — as an industry centered on profit.
Martinez’s story is being turned into a feature-length documentary called #BigFertility, a film produced by the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network, which aims to show the dangers behind the big money involved in the surrogacy industry.
“Kelly’s story is particularly unique because of the international dimension and how the industry exploited her over and over again,” said Jennifer Lahl, president of the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network.
“Her story shows how she was lied to, lied about, financially ruined and almost lost her life,” Lahl told CNA.
Martinez became a three-time surrogate mother. She became a surrogate for a French couple and a Spanish couple, despite the practice being illegal in all forms in the couples’ home countries. She also became a surrogate mother for a couple in the U.S. Throughout the documentary, Martinez talks about the medical risks, exploitation, and abuse she says she faced during the surrogacy process.
“I have now had my eyes opened to the fact that this is really about money, not about the children,” Martinez says in the trailer for #BigFertility.
The international scope of Martinez’s experiences, Lahl said, points to the overarching concerns that surrogacy around the globe presents. Martinez has now become an advocate against “big surrogacy,” and has spoken at various events around the world about her experience, including to members of Spanish Parliament and the United Nations.
Surrogacy has long been a controversial topic because of its connection with exploitation, abuses, and ethical concerns. The #BigFertility documentary is hoping to bring more of these concerns to light through Kelly’s story and experiences.
“Pushing back on the false narrative that surrogacy can be regulated and prevent problems, #BigFertility will show that the industry cares most about profits and least about the women used as paid breeders,” Lahl said.
The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network is also running a kickstarter page to finalize and market the documentary, which will be launched this fall.