29 July 2013
ByAppeared in BioNews 715
Indian surrogate mothers are frequently underpaid and insufficiently cared for, a report from an Indian charity claims. The Centre for Social Research (CSR) in New Delhi says there is little protection for surrogates in a growing industry without an adequate legal framework.
'Due to the commercialisation of surrogacy, the plight of the surrogate mother and the unborn child is often ignored', said Ranjana Kumari, the director of the CSR. 'There is a need for a concrete legal framework to monitor and regulate the existing surrogacy system to safeguard the interests of surrogate mother and the child'.
The CSR, supported by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, conducted a survey of 150 surrogate mothers and 50 commissioning parents in Delhi and Mumbai. It found that most of the surrogates surveyed were only paid one to two percent of the fee that commissioning parents usually pay for a child. In Delhi, only 26 percent of surrogates said they earned more than four lakh rupees (around £4,400). Commissioning parents - the majority of whom were from the USA or European countries, the study found - can expect to pay around 40 to 45 lakh rupees (£44,000 - £50,000) for surrogacy arrangements. The rest of the fee is usually kept by the agents who arrange surrogacy transactions, the CSR says.
The study showed the surrogates were mostly between 26 and 30 years old, married and educated up to primary level. Surrogates who were employed (68 percent in Delhi and 78 percent in Mumbai) mainly worked as housemaids or in domestic roles. Poverty and education of their children were given as reasons for entering into surrogacy arrangements and the majority had not experienced surrogacy before.
The study also found that surrogates were often poorly informed. Surrogacy agencies were the main source of information for surrogates, who were often not provided with a copy of the written contract. In cases where the intended parents did not wish to continue the pregnancy because of fetal abnormalities or sex preference, the fetus was aborted often without consulting the surrogate, the report says.
The practice of repeat IVF sessions was also commonplace. While the Indian Council of Medical Research, which publishes guidelines to fertility clinics in India, recommends that a maximum of three sessions take place, the 'vulnerable position' of the women involved means that this guideline is 'easily violated', the report claimed.
The study also highlighted the practice of 'twibling' - using more than one surrogate mother at a time for the same commissioning parents - to increase success rates. This often happens without the surrogate's knowledge, the CSR claims. 'In the case of unhealthy pregnancies, abortion pills are given by the doctor to terminate the pregnancy and the surrogate simply thinks that she had a spontaneous abortion', said Kumari.
The surrogacy industry in India is worth an estimated US$2.3 billion. Yet despite the scale of the industry, which is largely being fuelled by foreign demand including from the UK, the area remains unregulated. 'Despite the fact that India is becoming a hub for surrogacy, we don't even know if it is legal or illegal because there is no law', Kumari said.
The CSR says that the proposed regulation of surrogacy under the Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) Regulation Bill 2010, not yet passed into Indian law, does not go far enough to safeguard the rights of the surrogate and is mainly concerned with the role of clinics and the protection of commissioning parents.