Though surrogacy is popular now, thanks to Bollywood celebrities such as Shah Rukh Khan and director and producer Karan Johar who parented children through it, there is still no clarity on whether regulations allow it.
The Surrogacy Bill, 2016, which is yet to be enforced will allow only heterosexual married couples, who cannot have children, to opt for the procedure. But a notification from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in 2015 says that only Indian married couples can opt for surrogacy. Many in-vitro and infertility centres refuse single men and women surrogacy after this notification. However, a number of doctors continue to follow the practice.
In a letter to over 40 IVF and infertility clinics across the country, Dr RS Sharma, scientist and head, division of reproductive biology and maternal health at ICMR, said, “I have been directed to inform you that according to the stand of the department of health research, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, surrogacy will be limited to Indian married couples only and not to foreigners.”
Fertility experts said that the notification meant that single men and women, unmarried couples and foreigners cannot opt for surrogacy. Some clinics stopped the service after receiving the notification. “Since the notification clearly mentioned that we are to allow only Indian married couples, we immediately informed our clients who were single. In the past 18 months, we got over 20 requests from men and women who wanted to opt for surrogacy and we have refused them all,” said Dr Anjali Malpani, specialist in IVF and reproductive medicine from Malpani Infertility Clinic in Colaba.
Experts said that there was no clarity on the issue of a single parent from the central government. Health officials could not explain why the notification was not enforced. “Our priority was to stop foreign couples from becoming commissioning surrogates. Since the Surrogacy Bill, 2016, which bars single men and women from opting for the procedure is not yet cleared, the letter didn’t mention anything on it,” said Dr Soumya Swaminathan, director-general of ICMR.
Experts also debated on the plan to bar single men and women from surrogacy . “I believe that a child thrives in a positive environment, which can be ensured by a single parent as well as a couple. We have different family structures — matriarchal and patriarchal. The times call for a lot of social and familial adaptation. Science and technology only serve to fulfil these dreams,” said Dr Firuza Parekh, India’s foremost fertility expert who has attended the cases of Aamir Khan, Farah Khan and Tusshar Kapoor.
Another expert from the city said that many follow the trend set by celebrities and decide to opt for surrogacy without understanding the responsibility. “I am not against single parents going for surrogacy but they should have an idea about the responsibility that comes with it. Many just ape celebrities who opt for it. Most of these decisions are taken on the spur of the moment,” said the expert.