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A law to regulate India’s multi-billion dollar assisted reproduction industry has been in the works for some time.The draft Assisted Reproductive Technologies Regulation *** will be presented to Parliament this winter, and even many inside the ART industry are eager to see it come to fruition.The first-of-its-kind Bill to control and monitor cases of surrogacy in the country has been drafted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, along with the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) and has been sent to the law ministry for approval.
India has become a major destination for foreign couples to hire surrogates to bear their children.This has been made possible by the legalization of commercial surrogacy in India in *** has also been facilitated by the lack of stringent laws on surrogacy India and its low cost in the country.While surrogacy in the US may cost around *** to *** it costs only around $ *** in India.Besides, India offers advanced medical care facilities and the added advantage is that most doctors speak English and can communicate well with foreign couples.In fact, commercial surrogacy in India is all set to become a $2.3 billion-worth industry.Couples, including gay and lesbian couples, from all over the world, have benefited from the surrogacy options available in the country.
India may have been a booming centre of ‘reproductive tourism’ for several years, but it took the complicated case of Japanese baby Manji — born to an Indian surrogate mother — to bring into relief the fact that the law hasn’t managed to catch up with the burgeoning baby industry.But this is set to change now, with India set to be the only country in the world to legalise commercial surrogacy.The proposed rent-a-womb law, if passed in the parliamentary session, will clearly be one of the friendliest laws on surrogacy in the world.
India’s booming, and much publicized, surrogacy industry may soon feel the effects of significant regulatory developments.
The 35-page bill seeks to regulate India’s heavily market-driven fertility industry, and introduces a number of policies ranging from clinic regulation to restrictions on ART access.
Some points that are worth noticeable in Indian Surrogacy Bill, which the bill formally includes are:
1) Surrogacy shall not be available to “patients for whom it would normally be possible to carry a baby to term.”
2) Surrogacy contracts shall be legally enforceable.
3) Married women need their husband’s consent in order to become a surrogate.
4) Surrogates shall not undergo embryo transfer more than three times for the same couple.
5) Egg donor identities shall remain strictly confidential.
6) There shall be a detailed accreditation process for fertility clinics and gamete donor banks.
7) The Department of Health Research shall establish and manage a “national ART registry.”
8) The only “couples” eligible for ART shall be those “having a sexual relationship that is legal in India.” (This would apparently exclude gay couples.)
9) Foreigners seeking surrogacy services must provide written proof that their home country “permits surrogacy, and the child born through surrogacy in India, will be permitted entry in the country.” (This would apparently exclude people from Canada and a number of European countries that specifically prohibit commercial surrogacy, and could exclude people from countries that don’t explicitly permit it.)
10) The bill also calls for the formation of both national and state advisory boards composed of Health Department workers, industry representatives, scientists, and other civil society members.These boards are charged with operational zing and enforcing the many guidelines enumerated in the bill.
11) The ICMR’s ART Bill, *** has put in place several important provisions.It says a woman acting as a surrogate mother in India cannot be less than 21 years or over 35 years.Also, she cannot give more than five live births, including her own children.
12) The Bill mandates the appointment of a local guardian in case of surrogacy arrangements where the intended couple is staying outside India.This local guardian will be legally obliged to take delivery of the child born of the surrogacy arrangement if the intended couple does not do so.
It is yet unclear to what extent the *** bill’s language, and more importantly, its interpretation, implementation and enforcement if passed will address these and other social justice and health concerns.The implications for reproductive tourism are undoubtedly huge, and will certainly be shaped by the forthcoming responses from international commercial ART/surrogacy agencies, rights groups, and other civil society voices.
The finalized bill’s implications for certain groups, especially LGBT communities and foreigners seeking surrogacy in India, are turning heads already.Depending on how its rules on surrogacy are interpreted and enforced, the legislation would disqualify gay couples, both foreign and domestic, as well as individuals or couples from countries such as the UK, Canada and Germany where the practice of commercial surrogacy is illegal.Such steps in India, the commercial epicenter of what has turned into a global business, would drastically affect the global politics of reproduction “for hire.”
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