I thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak in favour of the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016. This is a very important Bill, particularly with respect to women who have been exploited extensively in a certain part of Gujarat - I don’t want to name it -and elsewhere in the country. … (Interruptions)
Actually for surrogacy to take place, it has to be preceded In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) which has been compared to man’s landing on moon because in IVF, a woman’s ovaries are stimulated to give multiple number of oocytes, and then they are fertilised outside the laboratory by a person who sits in the laboratory for hours together, controlling the different parameters which support life like oxygen, carbon dioxide, humidity and all the other protein molecules which let the embryo grow and survive. … (Interruptions) .
This IVF has been so difficult that it took nearly 100 years before the birth of Louise Brown who could be announced by Professor Robert Edwards and Patrick Steptoe of England in 1979, followed shortly by Subhash Mukherjee giving birth to Kanu Priya of Durga in Bengal, followed in 1996-97 by the birth of Imran. Professor Robert Edwards had been given the Noble Prize for this IVF baby’s birth, Louise Brown. Our very own Indian Council of Medical Research gave lifetime achievement to Dr. Ghosh Dastidar and Chakravarty for their work in India. So, only after IVF is done, is embryo available for transfer and surrogacy to follow.
At the onset, I would like to bring to your notice that here it is given that the embryo is only up to 56 days. In this age of cryopreservation today, sometimes, we can cryopreserve the embryo for years together. So, 56 days, counted from the day of fertilisation, should be replaced by any number of days that the baby is given in the mother’s womb. During that period, it can be cryopreserved. That has to be looked at. … (Interruptions)
This subject of surrogacy should have come along with the ART Bill because as I explained, without having an IVF Laboratory and a Test Tube Baby Laboratory, we cannot have surrogacy. … (Interruptions) So, these two subjects should have been brought together. By bringing this separately, maybe, we are trying to hinder those unscrupulous people who are exploiting women. That should have been brought together. So, I suggest that we have a public debate throughout the country and take the opinion of different categories of people including experts. … (Interruptions) Here also, there is a mention about embryologist, but there is a sea change in the subject of ART at the moment. When I was a student in the 1980s, an embryologist was not as same as an embryologist today. Particularly, an embryologist who is growing the child in the laboratory today has his experience in In-Vitro growth, so, a specialised embryologist is making the babies today. This also has to be changed here. … (Interruptions)
I understand that there have been many meetings with the Ministry, with the officers and with the professional bodies but when the final draft of the Bill was made and this was tabled here, the professional bodies like the Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecologist Societies of India, ISAR or the NGOs were not consulted. I think there has to be another meeting before this Bill is passed. … (Interruptions)
The hon. Supreme Court, Madam, has recently decriminalised Section 377 and the LGBT community has been accepted to be a part of the mainstream. So, we have same sex couples now. But, in this Bill, there is no mention of the same sex couples. Being a part of such a team which works on this, the person knows, the doctor knows that the demand from the transgender and LGBT community, same sex couples, whether they are two men or two women, they come with a demand of a child. … (Interruptions) Two-men couples require a surrogate mother. Two-women couples do not require a surrogate mother if both women are healthy. But we have to include them if we have to do justice. We have just passed the Transgender Welfare Bill two-three days back. If we have to do justice to a transgender couple or a same sex couple, then their mention has to be in this Bill.
It is also a matter of great concern and despair that we leave the treatment of infertile couples mostly to the hands of private clinics. Many government hospitals do not have the setup to carry out In-Vitro fertilisation and embryo transfer. … (Interruptions) To my understanding, All India Institute of Medical Sciences has a unit but that is not sufficient for the whole of the country. So, training should be given through people who have worked on this for more than thirty years now and then the doctors can be appointed and superspecialised embryo labs can be set up in the medical colleges and government hospitals to make out the treatment for infertile couples who cannot afford expensive treatment. Each injection for stimulation of ovaries costs between Rs 1,000 and Rs 3,000. So, the Government has to step in by the side of these couples to help them and also to keep the unscrupulous private clinics at bay from exploiting these couples. The government should have some extra funds. A separate fund should be created for infertile couples.
The most important call for medical surrogacy is a woman who has no uterus, who has no reproductive organs. Also, we must vehemently stop fashion surrogacy that is taking place in our country, not only commercial surrogacy in which the surrogate mother is being exploited. We must only do medical surrogacy by which we will stand by the women who are suffering.
Till today our society looks down upon women who do not get children. They say, “In the morning we should not look at your face because you are infertile and my day will be bad”. But it is a disease. She is not a baanjh. She is not trying to harm anybody socially. It is only that she has not been given the power to procreate. Also, we have to compensate. I understand that we do not support commercial surrogacy; we do not. But our own children, Indians living abroad, NRIs not being able to conceive children abroad should be included in here so that Indian couples living abroad are also given the facility.
Edited excerpts from a speech by Dr Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, Lok Sabha MP from Barasat, on the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, December 19 in the Lok Sabha