Bad policy hurts surrogate mothers and babies, says govt committee

A new report in the Rajya Sabha said that a law prohibiting many forms of surrogacy would continue driving the sector underground, with a large number of clinics already unregistered.

health Updated: Aug 12, 2017 17:43 IST
Rhythma Kaul
Rhythma Kaul
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Surrogacy,Surrogate mother,IVF
India is becoming a popular destination for surrogate childbirth worldwide.(HT Photo / Vijayanand Gupta)

About one in three in vitro fertilisation (IVF) clinics are not registered with the government, likely contributing to the inadequate care and abuse of surrogate mothers and their babies, according to a report issued on Thursday by the parliamentary standing committee on health.

Despite surrogacy being a thriving business in India, worth an estimated $2 billion annually, the report reckons that 468 of 1,503 clinics specializing in IVF or assisted reproductive technology (ART) are running without registration.

The committee suggested that the 2016 Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill may be responsible much of the dysfunction surrounding surrogacy in India. The bill restricted surrogacies to “altruistic” cases, those in which a close relative of an infertile couple gives birth to their child within five years of their marriage. The bill also prohibits the sale and purchase of human embryos and provides legal safeguard to surrogate mothers and children.

The report, however, says live-in couples, same-sex couples, widows and single parents should also be allowed to use surrogate mothers, irrespective of whether they can conceive, and that a national registry of surrogate mothers should be established.

These measures, it argues, would help stop the exploitation of surrogate mothers and protect the rights of children born out of surrogacy.

There is little accurate data about surrogacies in India. The committee estimated that surrogacy produced 2,000 babies in the last three years across the country. Worldwide, this is a large sum. In the United States, where surrogacy is legal, multiple estimates suggest there are about 1,000 births a year through surrogacy.

Many people in the field agreed with the committee’s suggestions. “The committee report has been prepared after exhaustive consultations, and if changes are made in the Surrogacy Bill accordingly, then TKTK- will make the sector a lot more organised, transparent and more open to audit,” said Dr Shivani Gour, the general secretary of the Delhi chapter of the Indian Society of Assisted Reproduction.

“There is no denying that a portion of the sector is running in an unorganised manner, but why should all suffer because of a few?” asked one IVF expert, who requested anonymity. “The bill needs more thought.”

An official with the Union health ministry expressed a measure of openness to the recommendations. “Once legislation is passed, it will be easier to keep an eye on any illegal activities and there will be punitive measures in case norms are flouted,” the official said. “As for the committee report, we will study it. However, it’s not binding.”

First Published: Aug 10, 2017 23:48 IST