The draft surrogacy regulation bill, 2016, allows Indian couples who have been married for five years to opt for altruistic surrogacy, but bans single women, “live-in” couples and gay couples from doing so because, said External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, “we don’t recognize homosexuality and live-in relationships. It is against our ethos.”
The crux of the problem for her doesn’t seem to be infertility or surrogacy, but morality. The minister has decided that single women should not have sex, gay men having sex should be arrested and the key thrown away, and people in “live-in” relationships are committing a sin and are not morally fit to bring up children.
And anything against “our ethos”, which Swaraj sees clearly in black and white despite India’s technicolour canvas, has to be banned.
The minister’s self-righteousness has taken away the focus from the person this law is supposed to protect: the poor surrogate who rents her womb.
The fact is that surrogacy pregnancies are not conceived naturally and infertility specialists inject a surrogate woman with hormones for weeks to prepare the uterus. In most cases, eggs are harvested from the intended parent or an egg donor, fertilized in the lab and then placed in the uterus of the surrogate.
The menstrual cycle of the egg donor has to be coordinated with that of the surrogate to prime her uterus to accept the foreign embryos. She mustn’t miscarry, it would mean starting the whole process again and that would cost money.
The surrogate’s uterus is prepared by giving her the two hormones estrogen and progesterone in sequence to simulate the surrogate’s natural cycle and thicken the walls of the uterus.
A third injectable drug leuprolide is occasionally added to prevent the surrogate’s cycle from starting at the wrong time.
At least three or four embryos are implanted to ensure at least two are “viable”. And once the baby or babies begin to grow in the womb, again it’s the mother that nourishes them.
Surrogates are usually women who have healthy children of their own, which clinicians take as proof of their being fertile. Between home and the new baby, the money at the end of the year is the only thing that keeps her going.
So please do not mix up surrogacy for adoption. It violates another person’s body for your own gain. It is not the same thing.