Altruistic surrogacy, an absurd idea

Altruistic surrogacy, an absurd idea

The draft of the Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) Regulation bill, which has been put out by the health ministry for public comments, has a number of provisions based on wrong ideas and misconceptions. The aim of the bill is to create a legal framework to regulate the ART market which has functioned without many checks and much supervision in past years. Surrogacy, where childless persons hire the womb of a woman to carry and give birth to their baby, is the central issue in the legislation. Since medical science has made this possible, it has become popular in many countries and India has a big market for it. The bill seeks to prevent the exploitation of poor and vulnerable women by prospective parents, doctors, agents and others. But in the process, it has made surrogacy extremely difficult by attaching many conditions to it. These conditions are unlikely to be followed. 

The bill bans commercial surrogacy and prevents foreigners from having children by surrogate mothers. It only allows what is called altruistic surrogacy, where the surrogate mother is only reimbursed for expenses during pregnancy. In the case of commercial surrogacy, the surrogate mother is paid a fee also. It is too much to expect that there will be many women who will act as altruistic surrogates willing to devote about an year of their lives to bear a child for a known or unknown childless couple, undertaking whatever risks which are associated with pregnancy, for no reward. This will only drive the activity underground and the government has no way of ensuring that no financial transaction takes place between the surrogate and the childless couple. The law will create a black market of babies. There is also no reason why foreigners should be banned from getting a child from a surrogate mother. Women go in for surrogacy for substantial financial gains. So, they should have the right and power to decide whether they should do so or not. Why should the government decide it for them?

There are about 3,000 fertility clinics in India which meet the demand of childless couples within the country and outside. It is a thriving industry because surrogacy is relatively cheap in the country. There has been exploitation and mistreatment of women in many ways because there was no law to monitor and regulate the activities of various stake-holders. Stringent norms should be laid down and enforced for this. But bans will only help the business to thrive illegally and that will add to the risks to the health of the mother and the baby.
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