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India considers bill to ban commercial surrogacy

30 August 2016

By Julianna Photopoulos

Appeared in BioNews 866

The Indian government is considering a bill to ban commercial surrogacy, which will only allow Indian couples married for at least five years to use surrogacy.

The Surrogacy Regulation Bill 2016 excludes people who do not hold an Indian passport, single parents and homosexual couples from engaging in surrogacy services in the country. Instead, couples affected by infertility that do not have other children can seek a 'close relative' surrogate, who will offer their womb for the purpose only once, reports the Times of India.

'This is a comprehensive bill to completely ban commercial surrogacy,' said India's Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj. 'Childless couples, who are medically unfit to have children, can take help from a close relative, which is called altruistic surrogacy.'

Under the proposed law, the surrogate will be the legal mother of the child. They must also be aged between 23 and 50, while their husbands should be between 26 and 55 years old, and be a 'close relative' of the intended parents. Couples who do not have close relatives will not have access to surrogacy, however, and will have to adopt a child to become parents. Any violations of the law or abandonment of a child will lead to a 10-year imprisonment and a fine of 1 million rupee (£11,384).

'Regulating surrogacy is a good move, but the point that only close relatives will be allowed to become surrogates needs to be reviewed. Most couples will not have close relatives who will agree to do this,' fertility expert Dr Aniruddh Malpani told DNA India.

Agreeing with him, Dr Bipin Pandit, gynaecologist and member of the Maharashtra Medical Council, said surrogacy is a legitimate form of assisted reproductive technology. 'How many close relatives will be willing to become a surrogate mother? Couples who have no choice but surrogacy for becoming parents will suffer,' he said.

India has no legislation in place to regulate surrogacy despite repeated attempts at introducing a bill to regulate assisted reproductive technologies (see BioNews 594). The latest version, which deals specifically with surrogacy (see BioNews 824), was approved by the Government's Union Cabinet last week.

The move is aimed at curbing practices which some perceive as unethical in a country that has been gaining a reputation as a surrogacy hub for foreign intended parents. According to Swaraj, surrogacy has also become a 'fashion' and is used by women, especially celebrities, who do not want to go through the labour pain.

Speaking to the Hindustan Times, Dr Archana Dhawan Bajaj, fertility and IVF expert at The Nurture Clinic, said: 'The new regulation will bring in transparency and make it easier to audit centres that do not follow best practices and parents that break the law.'

The bill, which has invited mixed reactions, will be introduced in Parliament in the winter session. The industry is reportedly now worth about US$1 billion (£758 million) a year.

RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE

02 October 2017 - by Melissa Elsworth 
Why would a woman choose to carry a baby for another person? Should money be involved? Does surrogacy exploit vulnerable women? And what other ethical issues are involved in the surrogacy process?...
14 August 2017 - by Julianna Photopoulos 
A number of liberal reforms to the Surrogacy Regulation Bill 2016 have been proposed by India's parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare...
19 June 2017 - by Ryan Ross 
The trial of a nurse accused of running an illegal overseas surrogacy service began in Cambodia last week...
28 November 2016 - by Ryan Ross 
A fertility nurse in Cambodia has been arrested for her involvement in the commercial surrogacy industry, following a recent crackdown by authorities...
07 November 2016 - by Lucas Taylor 
The Cambodian Health Minster Mam Bunheng has published a directive appearing to ban all forms of surrogacy in the country...

19 October 2015 - by Kirsty Oswald 
India looks poised to introduce surrogacy legislation following several developments that could lead to a blanket ban on commercial surrogacy...
13 October 2014 - by Ayesha Ahmad 
Reports of another surrogate-born baby abandoned in India by an Australian couple have further ignited the debate on international surrogacy in the wake of the Baby Gammy case....
04 November 2013 - by Rebecca Carr 
A recent order from the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs has stipulated that foreign nationals seeking to enter India for the purposes of commissioning Indian surrogacy services must now apply for a medical visa to do so....

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