Surrogacy tourism to India comes to an end

 

India’s government has passed a bill to ban all commercial surrogacy in the country, allowing only close family relatives to become surrogate mothers. The proposed measure is a blow to the thriving but unregulated rent-a-womb industry that many activists say is exploiting poor women.

The Surrogacy Regulation Bill 2016 proposes a radical change from imposing a blanket ban on commercial surrogacy to allowing only couples who have been married for 5 years or more to seek such services, and from a close relative only.

Overseas Indians, foreigners, unmarried couples, single parents, live-in partners and gay couples cannot opt for surrogacy. Couples with biological or adopted children are not eligible either.

Once the bill is passed by Parliament, it will take 10 months to go into effect. This bill, now passed by Council, will kill off the lucrative but ethically and legally problematic surrogacy tourism trade for desperate couples living outside of India. A hefty penalty of imprisonment of not less than 10 years and an Rs 10 lakh fine for violating the provisions of the law will make surrogacy tourism a huge risk for medical professionals and specialist agencies.

Surrogacy has been a thriving part of the Indian medical tourism industry, with many couples from other countries because of relatively lower costs, less restrictive laws and availability of surrogate mothers. Before the government imposed a ban in November 2015, foreigners accounted for 80% of surrogacy births in India.

At least 40,000 surrogate babies were born in the past decade. Many foreigners went to India to hire surrogate mothers for prices that could range from $8,000 to $40,000. There are 2,000 surrogacy clinics in India’s $400 million industry, and most will close.

All surrogacy clinics will have to be registered. The records of any child born through surrogacy will have to be maintained for 25 years. The law will regulate surrogacy in India by establishing a National Surrogacy Board at the central level, and state surrogacy boards and appropriate authorities in the state and union territories.

To stamp out commercial exploitation and middlemen, the surrogate mother can only be a close relative, such as a sister or sister-in-law who is married and has at least one healthy biological child. Even mothers can become surrogates for their children. A woman can be a surrogate only once in her lifetime. She will have to be medically insured. The commissioning parents will have to accept the child or children born to a surrogate mother irrespective of their number (twins or more), or their physical and mental condition. The child will have all the rights, including those of inheritance, as a biological child. There will be no exchange of money between the prospective parents and the surrogate mother. The only expenses allowed are medical bills paid to the clinic.

Commercial surrogacy is banned in New Zealand, Australia, Japan, China, Mexico, the UK, Philippines, South Africa, Canada, Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, France, Germany and most other European countries. Thailand and Nepal have recently banned commercial surrogacy in the wake of exploitation of women. Commercial surrogacy is allowed in Russia, the Ukraine and California in the USA.

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