Is Indian Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill 2016 Sustainable?

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The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill cleared by the Union Cabinet recently, has taken the medical fraternity by storm as the bill gives right to only married Indian couples to have a surrogate child, that too with numerous restrictions. The bill, praised and criticised throughout the country, has life changing implications on not only the people of this country, but also people from across the world who turn to India in search of a surrogate child.

The bill propagates complete ban on commercial surrogacy in India, making it purely altruistic, banning men, women and gay couples. Moreover, Indian nationals living abroad also can’t make use of the technology. Priya Selvaraj, a fertility specialist associated with GG Hospital, Chennai, says, “We need to bring in laws formulated by an efficient committee and not come down upon it in an irrational manner but in a manner where there is a sustainability and a win-win situation for all parties involved-namely commissioning parents, surrogates and the specialist dealing with them.” In respect to other countries, where the practices are either banned, highly regulated or purely altruistic, India has not taken a clear stand on how the industry should be run.

India is represented as the surrogacy capital of the world, although it is not the only one. “Whether to be proud or ashamed is a moral and or ethical debate. But, the fact that it’s true is because it is largely unregulated, cheaper and also the awareness levels of the women selected for the process is far less than their western counterparts. Monetary supplements may be easily manipulated by middlemen and families or practitioners etc,” she explained.

The bill also restricts surrogacy to married Indian couples . A couple should be proven infertile or incapable of having a child naturally before choosing the option of surrogacy. The couple can only opt for altruistic surrogacy. On this clause, Priya points out that it is worthwhile to let it run for those really needy couples who will benefit having their biological or part biological baby being carried by a surrogate but then again one has to completely protect the rights of the surrogate too. Also monetary transactions have to be standardised so that there is no exploitation of both parties. We need to pay attention to the couple who also face an emotional and financial burden of undergoing the whole process.

The regulation is a step towards curtailing illegal practises by setting legal ages for the men (26-55) and women(23-50) who can undergo IVF procedures and related techniques. The bill also says that a woman can be a surrogate just once, “which is good for her well being and at the same time banning commercial surrogacy with an iron fist by not allowing gay couples and single parents for the same is going to open up illegal channels.”

Priya describes that It costs about three lakhs to completely go through an IVF cycle. Moreover, food and medical expenses-boarding and lodging may be approx another Rs. 3 to 5 lakhs. lawyers fee roughly around Rs.25,000, surrogate’s fee can range anywhere from Rs. 3 to 5 lakhs which is not standardised as the educated surrogates demand more and the others get exploited at much lower amount. ” In all a couple may have to shell out anywhere from Rs 10 to15 lakhs,” she added.

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