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.
Aimed to ban commercial surrogacy in India, the bill currently prohibits cohabiting couples, same-sex couples, single parents, divorced and widowed women from seeking surrogacy services in the country (see BioNews 866). Instead, only infertile couples married for at least five years may seek a 'close relative' surrogate to offer their womb without compensation.
In a detailed 88-page report presented on 10 August 2017 to the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Parliament of India, the 31-strong panel called the proposed legislation 'too narrow' in its eligibility criteria because it ignored contemporary social structures and circumstances.
'If all these categories are to be banned then why have surrogacy at all?' asked the committee, which is headed by Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Yadav.
The committee recommended allowing surrogates to be 'adequately and reasonably compensated' and not to be dismissed 'in a paternalistic manner'.
'Pregnancy is not a one-minute job but a labour of nine months with far-reaching implications regarding [the surrogate's] health, her time and her family. In the altruistic arrangement, the commissioning couple gets a child; and doctors, lawyers, and hospitals get paid. However, the surrogate mothers are expected to practice altruism without a single penny,' said the report.
Given the risk of exploitation of poor women, the report recommends that the compensation amount should be fixed by authorities to avoid any bargaining between surrogates and couples. Arrangements should also include insurance to provide for the surrogate's healthcare after the birth, and to compensate relatives should the surrogate die.
The committee also criticised the mandatory five-year waiting period for infertile couples. It has asked for this period to be reduced to one year instead.
The proposed bill sought to ban surrogacy for all foreigners in India (see BioNews 824). The panel agreed with this but found 'no point' in restricting non-resident Indians, people of Indian origin, and foreigners married to Indian citizens.