As a guest speaker at many international infertility conferences, Patel isn't fazed by the foreigners who beat a path to her door — including clients from Taiwan, Japan, the U.S., Europe, and Australia. But she refuses to treat gay couples, revealing her deeply conservative cultural roots. "I get e-mails from gays and lesbians," she says, "some of them very well written — but I don't feel right about helping them."The people she does feel good about helping are the local women — the surrogates — so long as they're not being coerced by their husbands or in-laws eager for a paycheck. "I must be certain it's a woman's own decision," she explains. "If there's any sign of tension or unwillingness, I spot it straightaway." Patel also helps to ensure each woman keeps control over her fee. "For example, if she wants to buy a house, we'll hold her money for her until she's ready. Or if she wants to put it in an account for her children, we'll go with her to the bank to set up the account in her name." The money gives many women their first taste of empowerment.
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