Leading gynaecologists have termed the government nod to the Surrogacy Regulation Bill, that bans commercial surrogacy, as a black day, and say it will lead to malpractices like surreptitious and illegal surrogacy, that is rampant in kidney transplantation.
Doctors have questioned the government's decision and asked why would any woman become a surrogate mother for another couple, without any benefits.
"What an unfortunate decision it is? Many deserving infertile couples remain childless because of careless government policies. But this kind of provision will do a lot of injustice to infertile couples," said Himanshu Bavishi, President of Delhi chapter of Indian Society of Third Party Assisted Reproduction (INSTAR).
The bill for which the government has given it's nod allows surrogacy only on an ethical basis without any monetary benefits. Only a relative of the childless couple can become a surrogate mother under the new norms.
Abha Mazumdar, Director, Department of IVF at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, considered the founder of IVF in India, told IANS: "I am completely against the government's decision. This is certainly going to trigger corruption in surrogacy just like rackets being run in kidney transplants across the country. Commercial surrogacy cannot be banned in India... the government should have given a second thought to it."
"By banning commercial surrogacy, the government is snatching a boon that childless couples had till now as an alternative to become parents, and at the same time a way to earn money for the surrogate mother," she added.
Alka Kriplani, head of gynaecology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) said: "The government should have a balanced decision. There are many women who do not have uterus and many others who have complications with uterus. In such situation surrogacy can only help and commercial surrogacy is the only solution. Not every time a relative will come forward to become a surrogate mother."
The Union Cabinet on Wednesday gave its nod to the Surrogacy Regulation Bill, 2016, that seeks to prohibit "commercial surrogacy" and allow "ethical altruistic surrogacy" only to needy infertile married couple
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj told reporters, after the cabinet meeting, that altruistic surrogacy, which is the only way left, will not be allowed to single parents, live-in partners and homosexual couples. Married couples can get permission only if their marriage is at least five years old.
Shivani Sachdev Gour, another Delhi-based IVF specialist and member INSTAR, called it a black day in the history of surrogacy.
"It is a black day in the history of surrogacy. Probably, the policy makers didn't know how surrogacy can benefit them. Good practices can easily be regulated but should not be banned," Gaur told IANS.
According to doctors, there are more that 50 million infertile couples in the world and their desperation for a biological child has turned commercial surrogacy into a booming business.
Thousands of infertile couples rent wombs from poor women for nine months so they can take a baby back home.
Eminent IVF expert Anurag Bishnoi, recently in the news for helping an elderly 70-plus Amritsar couple have a child, questioned the bill and added that how exactly the new bill will be implemented and monitored is unclear.
"The logic behind the provision seems to ensure that no harm is caused to the child growing in a surrogate's womb. The bill very clearly says that the onus of proof is with the clinic. This will increase the paper work of clinics," Bishnoi told IANS.
Under the new rules, doctors will have to keep all the records of the couples for 25 years as they will have to prove to the government that the surrogacy done through their clinic is ethical and not commercial.
Swaraj had said that of late having a surrogate child had become a trend for a few people, even if they already have kids, boy and girl, as they don't want their wives to suffer pain.
(Rupesh Dutta can be reached at email@example.com)
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