The Lok Sabha passed a Bill to ban commercial surrogacy in the country. The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019 provides for constitution of surrogacy boards at national and state levels, as well as that intending couples should not abandon such a child under any condition. Terming the need to ban commercial surrogacy as “the need of the hour”, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said almost all countries had banned it. The minister assured the members that once the rules of the proposed law are in place, it would make the legislation stronger. There are about 2,000-3,000 surrogacy clinics running illegally in the country and a few thousand foreign couples resort to surrogacy practice within India and the whole thing is thoroughly unregulated.
- The Bill proposes that only close relatives will be permitted to act as surrogates to infertile couples for “ethical altruistic” reasons. There have been reports concerning unethical practices, abandonment of children born out of surrogacy and exploitation of surrogate mothers.
- 228th report of the Law Commission had recommended that the government should enact a legislation to ensure that there is only restrictive surrogacy in the country and commercial surrogacy is banned.
- Only Indian couples who have been legally married for at least five years would be allowed to opt for surrogacy, as per the Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Bill.
- The Bill seeks to “allow ethical altruistic surrogacy to the intending infertile Indian married couple between the age of 23-50 years and 26-55 years for female and male, respectively”.
- In recent years, India emerged as a commercial destination for foreigners seeking surrogate mothers. There have been reports on unethical practices, exploitation of surrogate mothers, abandonment of children born out of surrogacy, and rackets involving intermediaries importing human embryos and gametes.
- The Union Cabinet had introduced the bill in July. This was passed by the 16th Lok Sabha, but lapsed after the dissolution of the House.
- Commercial surrogacy in India was legalized in India in 2002 and outlawed in 2018.
- During the nearly two decades it was legal, India was a major provider of surrogacy for both domestic and international intended parents.
- The availability of medical infrastructure and potential surrogates, combined with international demand, fueled the growth of the industry. Surrogate mothers received medical, nutritional and overall health care through surrogacy agreements.
- The economic scale of surrogacy in India is unknown, but study backed by the United Nations in July 2012 estimated the business at more than $400 million a year, with over 3,000 fertility clinics across India.