~ Anubhooti Shaw
“Little souls find their way to you, whether they’re from your womb or someone else’s.”
The need for children is that one wish a married couple makes. Besides career, family and responsibilities, a child brings life to the wilted plant of family. When this wish is snatched away from them, it must feel like a part of life dying in the living bodies of the couple. Surrogacy is one such blessing to the intended parents. Thus, Surrogacy is a method of assisted reproduction where intended parents work with a gestational surrogate who will carry and care for their baby(ies) until birth. Intended parents use surrogacy to start or grow their families when they can't do so on their own.
On the basis of the type of fertilisation, there are two types of surrogacy:
i. Traditional/ Partial/ Natural Surrogacy: A traditional surrogate is someone who is genetically related to the child she is carrying. In other words, the surrogate's eggs will help conceive the child. A traditional surrogate may also be called a partial surrogate, natural surrogate, or just surrogate. The procedure is also sometimes known as straight surrogacy.
ii. Gestational Surrogacy: In gestational surrogacy, the child is not biologically related to the surrogate mother, who is often referred to as a gestational carrier. Instead, the embryo is created via in vitro fertilization (IVF), using the eggs and sperm of the intended parents or donors, and is then transferred to the surrogate.
On the basis of expense and finance, there are two types of surrogacy:
i) Altruistic surrogacy: Where the surrogate mother receives no financial rewards for her pregnancy or the relinquishment of the child to the genetic parents except necessary medical expenses.
ii) Commercial surrogacy: Where the surrogate mother is paid over and above the necessary medical expenses.
As the definition above states that commercial surrogacy is way much exorbitant than all other methods. This commercial surrogacy is now banned by the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019, where only altruistic surrogacy is allowed to Indian intended parents only. Since surrogacy cost is around ⅓ of the cost in the USA, therefore couples had made India a favourable place to get cost effective treatment or surrogacy. Therefore seeing this 'womb on rent' process increasing rapidly, the government decided to ban commercial surrogacy for foreign nationals in 2015.
As usual, India is publicly famous for exploitation by the middlemen who connect the contacts among the surrogate mother, intended parents and surrogacy clinics. And therefore the lack of monitoring results is innumerable frauds. The bill ensures that the surrogate mother would be a 'close relative' but fails to define the very phrase. The bill also doesn't specify about non-resident Indians therefore couples can come back home to have a baby in India as well.
The bill excludes a large part of other categories of individuals who might want to be mothers or fathers. These left out categories are homosexuals, unmarried couples and single men or women. Reproduction and having a child is a basic human right as stated by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 that “men and women of full age without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion have the right to marry and found a family”.
At an international level, surrogacy is still on a disbalanced plank from where attention and regulation can't be seen. For example:
- Altruistic surrogacy is allowed in Canada, Britain, Australia, and Denmark.
- All forms of surrogacy are completely prohibited in France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, and Bulgaria.
- Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine allow both altruistic and commercial surrogacy.
- Some countries allow surrogacy like Kenya, Malaysia, and Nigeria but have no formal law to regulate the practice.
- The laws related to surrogacy vary in the USA from state to state like surrogacy friendly states like Arkansas, California, New Hampshire, etc. allow both commercial and altruistic surrogacy. Commercial surrogacy is not allowed in New York and Michigan completely forbids surrogacy agreements.
Again commercial surrogacy faces a lot of criticism and outblast of 'feminists' who reside on their personal perspectives. Some classify this as an act towards humanity whereas some draw parallels to prostitution and slavery. On the other hand some say it blocks up a worker who contributes to the economy or else some say it breaks the bond between the mother and the child. There can be hundreds of theories for or against a motion but if it serves and provides a family to some at the end of the day, then the act deserves to be recognised and appreciated.
India may be labelled as a developing country, but these baby steps towards integrity and development may result in some good set regulations. The bill is no doubt a changing point on the map but it surely needs that strict implementation which will curb the frauds and inconsistency out. The most important part to firmly hold the implementation is the regulation of Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) in clinics thoroughly. This will ensure the least amount of fraud and misrepresentation. Proper inspection of authorities will automatically deplete the figures down. Surrogacy, as beautiful as it seems to be to the beneficiary parents, shouldn't be a nightmare to the surrogate mother. This nexus of science and humanity must be cherished and regulated properly so that the rectifications in the law don't fall on the bad books.
● Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948.