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Extra Bytes: Fine-tuning the Surrogacy Bill

Fine-tuning the Surrogacy Bill 2019

Approx Read Time: 5 minutes

In News:

  • A Select Committee of Parliament has recently recommended to remove the clause limiting surrogacy only to “close relatives” from the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019, to make the benefits of modern technology more easily available to infertile couples.

About: Surrogacy

  • Surrogacy is a practice where a woman gives birth to a child for an eligible couple and agrees to hand over the child after the birth to them.
  • Altruistic surrogacy involves a surrogacy arrangement where the monetary reward only involves medical expenses and insurance coverage for the surrogate mother.
  • Commercial surrogacy includes a monetary benefit or reward (in cash or kind) that exceeds basic medical expenses and insurance for the surrogate mother.
  • The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill was first mooted in 2016 in the wake of repeated reports of exploitation of women who were confined to hostels, not provided adequate post-pregnancy medical care and paid a pittance for repeatedly becoming surrogate mothers to supplement family income.

India’s surrogacy market:

  • According to rough estimations by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), around 2,000-odd babies per year through commercial surrogacy — when a woman is paid an agreed sum for renting her womb.
  • CII figures say surrogacy is a $2.3-billion industry fed by a lack of regulations and poverty.
Surrogacy Bill 2019
Surrogacy Bill 2019

In Focus: Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill 2019

Provisions of the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill:

  • The Surrogacy Bill proposes to allow altruistic ethical surrogacy to intending infertile Indian married couples in the age groups 23-50 years (women) and 26-55 years (men).
  • The couple should have been legally married for at least five years and should be Indian citizens.
  • Besides, couples who already have children will not be allowed to opt for surrogacy.
  • They cannot have a surviving child, either biological or adopted, except when they have a child who is mentally or physically challenged or suffers from a life-threatening disorder with no permanent cure.
  • The bill permits only ‘close relatives’ to be surrogate mothers.
  • The Bill puts a blanket ban on commercial surrogacy with penal provisions of jail term of up to 10 years and fine of up to ₹10 lakh.
  • A woman can be a surrogate only once in her lifetime.
  • The surrogate mother will not be paid any compensation except medical expenses and insurance.
  • The bill covers 18-month care expenses and insurance cover for the surrogate mother.
  • Altruistic surrogacy can be availed only by a defined mother and family. It won’t be permitted for live-in partners, single parents or Homosexuals.
  • Foreigners, NRIs and PIOs are not allowed to commission surrogacy in the country.
  • The bill also provides for constitution of The National Surrogacy board and State Surrogacy board which shall be the policy making and regulating bodies.
NOTE: The Bill was earlier scrutinized by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare. However, the recommendations were not accepted by the government.

Changes Suggested by the Select Committee:

  • To remove the “close relatives” clause and any “willing” woman should be allowed to become a surrogate mother provided all other requirements are met and the appropriate authority has cleared the surrogacy.
  • It has strongly backed the ban on commercial surrogacy.
  • The need for a five-year waiting period for childless married couples could be waived if there is a medical certificate that shows that they cannot possibly conceive.
  • It has recommended that persons of Indian origin should be allowed to avail surrogacy services.
  • A single woman, such as a widow, a divorcee, or a person of Indian origin (PIO) aged between 35 and 45 years should be allowed to avail of surrogacy.
  • However, the committee has not recommended expanding the definition of commissioning parent to include singles, either men or women.
  • People like Tushar Kapoor, Karan Johar and Ekta Kapoor, all from the entertainment industry, would still not qualify for using the surrogacy route for children. All of them have already used that route.
  • The Select Committee also recommended that the ART Bill (which deals with assisted reproductive technologies) should be brought before the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019, so that all the highly technical and medical aspects could be properly addressed in the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019.
NOTE: The government is free to accept or reject the recommendations of the Select Committee.

What is the ART Bill?

  • The Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill has been in the making since 2008.
  • It aims to regulate the field through registration of all IVF clinics and sperm banks, segregation of ART clinics and gamete banks etc.
  • It also requires national and state boards to be established for the purpose of regulation of the fertility market.

Also Read: Direct Tax Vivad se Vishwas Bill: How govt aims to reduce direct tax litigation

Related Article: Editorial Analysis: The new surrogacy bill protects the interests of all

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