Surrogacy Bill: Protecting women’s rights or denying choice?

Experts believe altruistic surrogacy will fail as a model, in a country where only the low income group volunteer | Illustration - Eunice Dhivya

Almost two decades after India became a hub for commercial surrogacy, the country could very well lose this famous tag, thanks to the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, which was recently referred to the Rajya Sabha Select Committee for review. The bill, which was passed in Lok Sabha in August this year, aims to end commercial surrogacy and calls for altruistic surrogacy or an arrangement, which doesn’t allow monetary compensation for the surrogate mother.

Commercial surrogacy is an arrangement where a ‘surrogate mother’ agrees to have an embryo generated from the sperm of a man who is not her husband, and the oocyte of another woman implanted in her to carry the pregnancy to full term and deliver the child to its biological parents.

The boom of surrogacy in India can be fathomed from the fact that over 2,000 foreign babies are born in the country through surrogacy every year. In Gujarat’s Anand district, Akanksha Hospital and Research Institute has seen 13,000 deliveries through surrogate mothers in almost two decades. A good part of it has also been fuelled by surrogacy tourism which has brought foreigners to India.

The Surrogacy Bill, among many things puts an end to foreigners flocking to India as it is also cheaper here. While a surrogate mother can be paid about ₹4 lakh or more, the whole procedure can cost ₹14 lakh or higher, which is far lesser than what it can cost in countries like the US and the UK.

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