- Commercial surrogacy or the practice of renting one's womb in return for monetary considerations is common in India.
- While surrogacy may be a boon to childless couples, there have been many instances of misuse and exploitation of the surrogate mothers, issues of citizenship and abandonment of baby, all mainly due to lack of a proper regulation and government legislation.
Domestic demand for surrogacy is ever increasing. In addition, with infertility rates soaring in other countries, at least half of this demand is from overseas couples.
One of the main reason for India being a popular choice for couples from the West is the relatively cheaper rates of surrogacy here.
With this bill, the government hopes to address the loopholes in the law and regulate surrogacy.
Types of Surrogacy
The word surrogacy is today synonymous with a woman carrying a pregnancy for intended parents. It may be traditional or gestational.
In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate may be naturally or artificially impregnated, but is genetically related to the child.
‘No room for renting the womb Ė Surrogacy Bill to ban its commercialisation’
In gestational surrogacy, the surrogate is artificially impregnated with an embryo created by in vitro fertilization (IVF), and is not related to the child genetically.
Reasons for Surrogacy
It may be resorted to when pregnancy is medically impossible for the mother, may endanger her health or by same sex couples preferring to have a child through surrogacy rather than adopt.
Couples may resort to surrogacy when other methods such as artificial insemination
have failed and adoption of children is not being considered. One of the intended parents will be an egg or sperm donor to establish the bond of biological relationship.
Status of Surrogacy in India
Commercial surrogacy has been legal in India since 2002. Though the exact figures may not
be known, an UN backed study conducted in 2012 estimated that there are over 3000 fertility clinics in India that generate a business that exceeds $ 400 million annually.
An estimated 25,000 children are born to surrogate mothers
in India every year.
Why is the Surrogacy Bill Required
With married women in lower income group choosing to become surrogate mothers in order to supplement the family income, there is an increased possibility of exploitation and abuse by the Fertility clinics. Maternal deaths have been reported due to lack of medical care in these clinics.
In addition, with many foreign couples choosing Indian surrogate mothers, there have been instances of abandonment, citizenship problems, Passport/Visa and guardianship issues.
Surrogacy is primarily governed by signed contract between the involved parties. The industry however continues to function without any checks and balance in place.
Horror surrogacy stories have appeared regularly in media and many such incidents have given a bad name to the medical profession and our society at large. Instances such as these have prompted the Indian government to draft a bill to regulate surrogacy.
The Surrogacy Bill 2016
This bill has been around since 2000, earlier referred to as the Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) Bill. Since issues related to surrogacy were mostly in need of regulation, it has been renamed the Surrogacy bill.
A group of ministers (GoM) was set up by PM Narendra Modi to look into the draft Bill and fine tune it wherever necessary. It included Health Minister JP Nadda, Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Food Processing Industries Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal.
The issues being addressed by the bill relate important issues such as
- Legalisation of surrogacy
Setting up of a Board to monitor and inspect Fertility clinics regularly
No new Clinics to be allowed
Surrogacy only for proven cases of infertility
Banning commercial surrogacy - only medical expenses will be paid. No money to be paid for carrying the child.
Foreigners will be barred due to instances of abandonment, citizenship, Passport/Visa issues
Safeguarding the interests and health of the surrogate mother - mandatory "health insurance coverage" for the mother during entire pregnancy and for two months after the delivery.
Selling of Surrogate children will not be permitted
Legal action against prospective parents for refusal to accept a deformed child or having health issues.
Proposal to keep gay couples and singles out of surrogacy
Proposal to keep the surrogate mother to 'within the kith and kin' of the intended parents to regulate and prevent commercialisation.
Parentage of children born through surrogacy to be made legal and transparent
The Surrogacy bill 2016 is being taken up in parliament on Wednesday (August 24th 2016) following clearance by the group of ministers. It will be introduced in parliament during the winter session for making it a parliamentary law.