The Indian government announced plans to ban commercial surrogacy in the country. The government issued a notice to the country's 350-odd fertility clinics, ordering them to not entertain any foreigners. However, this move sparked an outcry from fertility specialists, along with rallies by surrogate mothers, pressing the government to dump the decision in favor of strict regulation of the industry.
Dr. Nayana Patel, one of India's leading IVF specialists, said, "Why should foreigners be discriminated against? We are all human beings. I have been doing this for 11 years and it's a beautiful arrangement. Banning it is not the answer."
Dr. Patel further added, "We have told couples who are still at the very start to wait and watch what happens. My clinic has given such advice to 30 to 40 couples in recent days."
Shivani Sachdev Gour, head of Surrogacy Center India in Delhi, said, "It was logical that parents already signed up be allowed to continue. There are no guarantees but if they have started the process they should be able to keep going."
After arriving from Ireland this week, one couple said, "We were determined to go ahead, confident that since they already registered with a clinic, our case holds up in a court of law." Unable to have children and born with a heart defect that rules out IVF treatment, the woman said, "We turned to India as a last resort after learning adoption was outlawed in Ireland for people with certain medical conditions. Realistically this is our only option." Her husband said, "99% of the children born this way will have a more loved life because their parents have made so much of an effort to have them. It would be madness to ban it."
Thailand passed a law in 2015 banning commercial surrogacy for foreigners after a series of high-profile scandals. Nepal's apex court also closed the doors in August, 2015, leaving dozens of expectant parents in turmoil, before the government stepped in, granting visas allowing them to take their babies homes. India has steadily tightened its surrogacy industry, barring gay couples and single people from using surrogates in 2012.
It is estimated that India generates between $500 million and $2.3 billion annually, after opening up to surrogacy in 2002. The multi-million dollar surrogacy industry has exploded in recent years with thousands of infertile couples flocking to India, as it is one of only a handful of countries offering cheap surrogacy using skilled doctors and with relatively little red tape. Russia, the Ukraine and some United States states are among those that also allow commercial surrogacy. But clinics in India charge couples between $20,000 and $30,000, a fraction of the price in the US.
The unregulated industry's growth had sparked debate about exploitation of the 25,000 mainly poor Indian women whose wombs are hired to carry couples' embryos through to birth. Presently, couples and surrogate mothers, many of whom live in shelters during pregnancy, sign a contract before starting the process. But research suggests some surrogates do not receive a copy, while others do not understand its contents. Many women, some illiterate, have children of their own, but few have undergone a caesarean delivery, commonly used in surrogate pregnancies, and are unprepared.
The Delhi-based Center for Social Research said, "Others are not paid the promised amount and lack health insurance if things go wrong." But, Manasi Mishra, the center's head of research, said, "A ban would only force the industry onto the black market and out of reach of regulators. The industry will go underground and the bargaining capacity of the surrogates will diminish even further."