Several India-origin couples protested on Saturday against the November 2015 ban in India on surrogacy, complaining they were unable to get their embryos back from clinics in Gujarat and elsewhere.
The Narendra Modi government published a draft bill in August to ban commercial surrogacy for foreign nationals, including holders of Overseas Citizen of India status. The bill has attracted much criticism in India – considered the world’s “surrogacy hub” – and abroad.
Harvey and Sheetal Jassal, who had a daughter through surrogacy at Anand in Gujarat, told Hindustan Times at the Harrow protest: “Our four fertilised embryos are stuck in India, we cannot get them back due to the ban. Either allow us to use them or have them back so that they can be used elsewhere to complete out family.”
A large number of couples from Britain of various ethnicities have made the journey to India to have surrogate children over the years. The industry is said to be worth more than £1.5 billion to the Indian economy, but there is no regulation so far.
The protesters said that their embryos were at various stages in the fertility process.
“Many embryos are still frozen in India and can’t be taken out or used – will they be destroyed? Many surrogates have been robbed of their chance of a better life and are devastated. Many couples were part way through their treatment and had to stop,” said London-based Rekha Patel.
“This is a disastrous situation, and sadly it has come about because the policymakers simply do not understand what surrogacy is and how it works. Surrogacy is an emotive and misunderstood subject. It needs to be properly debated and understood before a final decision is made.”
The scientific and ethical aspects of surrogacy were not taken into consideration before the ban was imposed, the protesters alleged. The ban, they said, did not save surrogates from exploitation, but was "robbing" them of hope of a better life.
Harvey Jassal, a London-based civil engineer, said overall it was a difficult journey to have a surrogate child but his experience of having a daughter, Anjali, in 2015 was “completely amazing, lovely”.
However, he regretted that their efforts at completing their family had been frustrated by the ban.
Patel hoped a campaign in India and elsewhere to petition the Modi government to take another look at the ban and the issue will help resolve the situation: “Everyone in the arrangement is happy, so why ban it?”