Draft surrogacy bill likely to undergo changes

Draft surrogacy bill likely to undergo changes

Draft surrogacy bill likely to undergo changes

The draft Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016, is likely to undergo changes that will widen its scope, Union Health Minister J P Nadda said here on Friday.

The minister’s clarifications come in the wake of sharp criticism on some of the provisions of the bill, which were approved by the Union Cabinet earlier this week. While aiming to remove the exploitation faced by surrogate mothers from IVF clinics, the bill brought in several clauses which doctors felt are impractical and would only drive the commercial surrogacy business underground .

For instance, the proposed law, if enacted unchanged, would make it difficult for an infertile couple living in a metropolis to have a baby through in-vitro fertilisation (IVF).

“The approval by the Cabinet is only the first stage. It would go to the Parliamentary Standing Committee where the bill would be debated again. The recommendations of the panel would have to be incorporated in the bill before it comes to Parliament. There could be amendments to the draft,” Nadda said.

2 aspects to stay  
Two core aspects of the bill — to stop exploitation of poor women in the name of commercial surrogacy and to prevent the intended parents from abandoning a baby after birth — will stay. But a new area of concern has emerged on who could be the surrogate mothers for infertile couples, whose numbers are growing in India.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who headed a group of ministers, had earlier stated that only close relatives could be a surrogate mother, if they fulfill certain criterion.

This opened a Pandora’s box, with many pointing out the impracticality of the decision in India's societal context.

In this context, infertile women are exposed to intense family pressure and unlikely to receive family support in many cases.

There are also concerns about urban nuclear families, which cannot fall back on traditional family support as well as worries on the maternal rights of the surrogate mothers.

“How far we can go, we will see in the rules,” Soumya Swaminathan, secretary in the department of health research that framed the legislation, said.

In the present form, the bill also has discrepancies when compared to adoption laws. For instance, an infertile couple can adopt a child two years after marriage, but would have to wait for five years to try IVF. Also, a single parent is allowed to adopt, but in the surrogacy law, it is a strict no.

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