Amid widespread concerns that surrogate mothers, who rent their wombs to childless couples, are exploited by In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) clinics, the government plans to draft norms to prevent exploitation of these women.
The National Commission on Women has convened a nation-wide consultation in the second week of October to decide on the quantum of compensation and how it should be paid to surrogate mothers. The commission would then send its inputs to the health ministry, which is piloting a bill on artificial reproductive technology (ART).
“While in vitro fertility clinics charge anything between Rs 30-45 lakhs from their clients, the surrogacy agreements mention a figure of Rs 1-4 lakhs. But the woman, who rents her womb, does not even receive Rs 40,000 as the clinics keep the rest of the money showing it as medical expenses incurred on that woman,” Shamina Shafiq, NCW member, said here on Monday on the sidelines of a conference on surrogacy in India.
Commercial surrogacy is legal in India since 2002. “It is a booming, unregulated industry with innumerable clinics, surrogates, gamete donors and many other players providing a range of medical, hospitality, legal and other services,” says N Sarojini from Sama Resource Group, a Delhi-based non-government organisation.
“Almost 1500-2000 IVF clinics have mushroomed all over the country. They have a ready-made client base as 7-10 per cent of people do not have a child,” said Vishwa Mohan Katoch, secretary to the department of health research (DHR) and director general of Indian Council of Medical Research.
After a decade-long consultation on the ICMR guidelines on ART clinics, the DHR came out with a legislation seeking to plug several loopholes and remove grey areas surrounding the fertility clinics and the services they offer.
The first version of the bill, however, was inadequate in protecting and safeguarding the rights and health of women going in for IVF techniques, recruited as surrogates and children born through commercial surrogacy, claims Sarojini.
“The bill was circulated to the ministries. We received comments running into 76 pages from within the government. The bill was redrafted incorporating the suggestions contained in those comments. Now a cabinet note has been prepared and circulated among the ministries,” Katoch said and added, “We must have the legislation soon enough.”