This year-long joint venture between Radiolab and Israel Story (which is basically Israel’s answer to This American Life) appears to be a pretty straight-forward story — but very quickly becomes anything but.
Birthstory begins with Tal and Amir, a same-sex couple, who want to become parents. They each want to become a father, and they want their children to share a mother. Israel’s surrogacy laws say that only infertile heterosexual couples can use surrogates in Israel, so they look into surrogacy in the U.S. but that proved to be too expensive.
They start looking other places, but want to be careful not to exploit a desperate woman. We hear how they end up with three babies from a single Ukrainian egg donor... using two Indian surrogates who gave birth in Nepal just before the earthquake of April 2015.
Anything but straight-forward, right?
But that's just the beginning of the story. The earthquake moves the focus of the story over to the surrogates. When the seedy underbelly of the surrogate market is exposed, countries around the world took notice. What you hear in the episode is countries around the world considering banning surrogacy — and you hear in real time. You also hear about how this affects those closest to surrogacy, the surrogate's and the parents.
This episode brings up a lot of questions about morality and rights. Tal and Amir should have the right to have a child, while women who are surrogates should have rights protecting them from being exploited. There’s no real answer at the end of the episode; they don’t try to tie everything up with a string. They just let those questions sit with you.
Bonus info: Tal and Amir had a chance to meet the Indian women who served as their surrogate just after the deliveries, after all the paperwork was signed. Tal and Amir provided the audio of this meeting and you can hear it on the Radiolab site as a web audio extra.