Damp response to regulate test tube baby clinics

Almost one-third of the Indian test tube baby clinics have not responded to the Centre’s queries on their registration, which would be the first step in regulating these clinics that have mushroomed all over the country.

As the Health Ministry is waiting for a green signal from the Law Ministry to move a Cabinet note on the Assisted Reproductive Technologies (Regulation) Bill that seeks to regulate the booming in-vitro fertilisation business, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has begun a parallel exercise to map ART clinics and banks in the country.

ICMR has found 1,391 ART clinics and banks in 26 states and Union territories, out of which 489 remained outside the agency's reach as they did not respond to the queries.
As on December 2014, the maximum number of such errant clinics are in Maharashtra (90) followed by Tamil Nadu (61), Delhi (48) and Kerala (46).

Kerala is the only state where the number of unregistered ART clinics are more than the number of registered outfits,  suggests the government’s data on ART clinics.
“ICMR has received a number of complaints against a number of ART clinics,” said an Health Ministry official.

Between November 2013 and December 2014, ICMR received 8 specific complaints, six of which are related to violation of surrogacy norms like single parent surrogacy on tourist visa and unmarried couple surrogacy on tourist visa.

With the country becoming a hub for surrogacy, there is an urgent need for a rights based legal framework to regularise it, says the Centre for Social Research (CSR), New Delhi.

“There are many issues besides sex selection and exploitation of the poor surrogate mothers,” said Ranjana Kumari, director, CSR.

With 288 ART clinics and banks, Maharashtra has the maximum number of test tube baby centres followed by Tamil Nadu (182), Delhi (132), Uttar Pradesh (113), Karnataka (106), Andhra Pradesh (92), Gujarat (91) and Kerala (80).

The unregulated reproductive tourism industry, says Kumari, is rapidly increasing as there is no legal provision to safeguard the interests of all major stakeholders involved in the surrogacy arrangement, be it the surrogate mother, the child or the commissioning parents.

The Health Ministry prepared a surrogacy law in 2010. The bill was revised following suggestions from the Ministry of External Affairs and Home Ministry.

“For months, we have been waiting for the Law Ministry’s approval to move to the Cabinet. It is yet to come,” Health Ministry sources told Deccan Herald.

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