- Fertility & Reproductive Systems
Surrogacy and IVF Trends in India
As per an article on hfea.gov.uk, surrogacy is defined as “when another woman carries and gives birth to a baby for the couple who want to have a child.” Full surrogacy involves the implantation of an embryo created using either the egg or the sperm of the intended parents, or a donated egg fertilized with the sperm of the intended father, or a donated egg and donated sperm. Surrogacy involves using the IVF procedure, or the in vitro fertilization procedure. According to an article on the official website of Rainbow Hospitals, the IVF treatment involves the extraction of the eggs from the woman’s embryo, after having treated her with hormones for stimulating egg production, the placing of the eggs and the sperm in a petri dish for fertilization, and the implanting of the fertilized embryo in the woman’s womb, or in the womb of the surrogate. While surrogacy is an option available to couples in many countries across the world, commercial surrogacy, where the surrogate is paid for her services, is allowed in very few countries. These are Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Thailand and some US states. Until recently, India was also on the list. At the end of October 2015, the Indian government banned commercial surrogacy for parents not of Indian origin.
Till the ban came into force in late 2015, India was a hub for cheap infertility treatments, including commercial surrogacy. Commercial surrogacy was legalized in India in 2002. As explained by an article on thehindu.com, commercial surrogacy is a process by which a couple pays a fee to a woman in exchange for carrying and delivering their baby. At birth, the child is transferred to the couple either privately, or through legal adoption. As the article says, “Earlier, the agreements between intending parents and surrogates were oral and the latter were often underpaid and ill-treated. Today, there are proper contracts to ensure that neither party is cheated. In many of the bigger and better organized fertility clinics, the surrogates are housed in special homes, given proper diet, medical checkups and maintenance allowances.” However, there have still been many cases of exploitation due to the lack of proper regulation. The Artificial Reproductive Technology Bill, first proposed in 2008, is yet to be tabled in Parliament.
Market for Commercial Surrogacy in India
According to an article on bbc.com, the infertility and surrogacy business in India had grown to USD 2.3 billion, and 5,000 surrogate babies were being born in India every year. Many couples have come to India from various foreign countries, especially the UK, as the IVF treatment is much cheaper in India and many countries, including the UK, don’t allow commercial surrogacy. The cost of surrogacy, including the IVF cost, is about USD 25,000. Of this, the surrogate mother is paid USD 10,000. Those who are surrogate mothers for Indian couples usually receive less than those who have been surrogates for couples who are foreign nationals.
Why is the Indian Government Considering Restrictions on Surrogacy?
The Indian government has already banned infertility clinics from providing the surrogacy option to couples who are foreign nationals. The government is contemplating a law that would make commercial surrogacy an option only for those couples who have exhausted all other medical options. Why this ban? As reported by an article on theguardian.com, Dr Soumya Swaminathan, director general of the Indian Council of Medical Research, had the following to say about the reasons for the government’s ban on surrogacy. “The number of surrogacy clinics has increased in recent years and it was growing into a big, unregulated business. The ban is in response to widespread concern about the exploitation of women. Several reports said that women (mostly poor and illiterate) were being detained in hostels and used as surrogate mothers, without any safeguards for their health and wellbeing.” She added that, “There was an issue of the citizenship of children, as many countries do not recognize surrogacy and these babies therefore have no legal standing.”