Hundreds of women and couples in India are pinning their hopes on the upcoming Rajya Sabha select committee that aims to examine the Indian Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill 2019. The bill was set up to end the practice of commercial surrogacy that has helped so many people become parents
Since the bill, that says that surrogacy is only available as an altruistic service using a close family member as a surrogate, rather than it being a commercial enterprise, experts in fertility have created a movement against it.
The town of Anand has become known for its record number of births to commercial surrogates over the past 15 years. Dr Nayana Patel who is the founder of the Akanksha Hospital in Anand says that in many cases, surrogacy is the only hope people have. She says, “How else would one address the wish of a woman or couple to have their own child when all other options are exhausted?”.
The Rajya Sabha select committee has recently visited Anand with an aim to visit Hyderabad and Mumbai
They plan to speak with various stakeholders to see what can be done about the ban on commercial surrogacy.
A 39 year old travel company owner living in Canada who is an Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) told the Times of India that she’s been camping in Anand for a few days, eagerly awaiting the outcome.
She says, “I got married 10 years ago and have been trying to conceive for about nine years. My uterus is not competent to sustain a pregnancy, which leads to miscarriages. Surrogacy is my only hope if I want my own flesh and blood”.
Often, she told the newspaper, people ask if she’s considered adoption
But whilst she doesn’t mind the thought of adoption, adoption procedures take far longer than surrogacy, provide less choice and are more expensive.
Stakeholders taking part in the discussions haven’t officially said exactly what is being discussed, but there is speculation. Sources say that Anand’s commercial surrogacy services, the impact on the surrogates, economic issues and eligibility are all on the agenda.
Surrogacy is already prohibited for OCI couples, foreign nationals, single people and those who already have children
But a male gynaecologist who wishes to become a single father cannot understand why he’s being persecuted for being single. He says that after a failed relationship, he’s not sure he wants another relationship but wants to become a dad. He argues that he could’ve used a surrogate before commercial surrogacy became illegal, yet wasn’t ready then, but is now and feels he’s being singled out. He says that from his experience, single parents can be better equipped to become a parent with all their extra family support.
Interestingly, the “most vocal opponents” of the commercial surrogacy ban are the surrogates themselves, that the bill is supposedly there to protect
At the Akanksha clinic, there are almost 100 women currently in varying stages of pregnancy, most from the Anand area. One says that she’s having her second surrogate pregnancy after conceiving for the first time in 2017. She said she’s separated from her husband and only has a primary education. The first time she made enough money to send her two children to school and build her own house. She’d never “be able to earn that much in another vocation”.
Another surrogate says that she agrees that the government should stop exploitative practices but “indiscriminate action will do more harm than good for both surrogates and aspiring parents”.
What do you think about the surrogacy ban? Have you taken the surrogate route in India in the past? We would love to hear your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org or on social media @ivfbabble