Government Changes the Outlook for Surrogacy in India
“The issue, surrogacy could be a gift of life and for millions of childless parents calls for a further debate involving the regulators, media, ethicists, jurists, health care professionals, civil society members and patient representatives. The society needs to debate on this,” says Dr Sudarshan Ballal, President, NATHEALTH.
With the recent introduction of Surrogacy (Regulatory) Bill, 2019, in the Lok Sabha, the government of India has put the full stop to commercial surrogacy. The regulatory bill of surrogacy says that it will only allow altruistic surrogacy and not commercial surrogacy.
On 15th July, the Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Dr Harsh Vardhan introduced this bill. Later, it was passed by Lok Sabha on 5th August. This regulatory bill defines surrogacy as a practice by a woman who gives birth to a child for an intending couple with the intention to give the child after the birth to the intending couple.
Earlier, commercial surrogacy was permitted but with these changes in the bill, surrogacy is only permitted for intending couples who are proven infertile, altruistic or any condition or disease specified through regulations and not for commercial purposes, children production for sale, prostitution or other forms of exploitation.
Supporting the surrogacy bill, Dr Sudarshan Ballal, President, NATHEALTH said, “With the approval of Parliament, the Surrogacy Regulation Bill, 2019 is all set to transform the way India looked at surrogacy so far. With new surrogacy law, commercial surrogacy in the country will be prohibited and it will restrict the services for altruistic purposes only. But in its current form, the proposed law appears to be restrictive. There is no doubt that we should avoid exploitation and coercion of the weaker sections of society and follow the law of the land in these issues. However, we also need to revisit the individual’s right to donate or rent an organ or tissue, whether it is for altruistic or a commercial reason in a medically acceptable procedure where the risk to the donor is nil or minimal.”
The bill also includes the offences for undertaking or advertising commercial surrogacy, exploiting the surrogate mother, abandoning, exploiting or disowning a surrogate child and selling or importing human embryo or gametes for surrogacy. Penalties for such offences is imprisonment up to 10 years and a fine up to INR 10 lakh.
Vardhan also proposed the establishment of National Surrogacy Board (NSB) and the State Surrogacy Boards (SSB) by the central and the state government respectively, where NSB will advise the central government on the surrogacy policy matters, laying down the code of conduct of surrogacy clinics and supervising the functioning of SSBs. “While it is necessary to regulate surrogacy, it needs a balanced and forward-thinking approach. In the current form, banning commercial surrogacy would be a limiting factor rather than benefiting those who are in need. Finding altruistic surrogacy remains a challenge, hence the importance of regulation on commercial surrogacy needs a rational approach. A blanket ban on commercial surrogacy is not the solution rather having a safe milieu for the surrogate mothers is the need of the hour,” says Dr Archana Dhawan Bajaj, Consultant Obstetrician, Gynaecologist, Fertility & IVF Expert, Nurture Clinic, New Delhi.
Looking at the brighter side of the same, Dr Ballal further emphasised, “The issue, surrogacy could be a gift of life and for millions of childless parents calls for a further debate involving the regulators, media, ethicists, jurists, health care professionals, civil society members and patient representatives. The society needs to debate on this”.