Thursday, 25 September 2014

What is Assisted Reproductive Technologies (Regulation) Bill, 2013?

Commercial surrogacy is practiced in India, where the surrogate mother agrees to carry a pregnancy to term for a fee for commissioning couples. A study conducted by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in the year 2012 revealed that the surrogacy sector is worth $2 billion, despite being completely unregulated.

After regular attempts to regulate the surrogacy sector in India, an Assisted Reproductive Technologies (Regulation) Bill, 2013—an attempt by India to regulate commercial surrogacy—is likely to be presented to the cabinet on Thursday before being introduced in Parliament.

After making necessary modifications in the earlier versions of the bill passed in 2008 and 2010, the cabinet approved it with the vetting from Law Ministry and Planning Commission.

-       The Bill addresses all issues pertaining to ethics in commercial surrogacy.
-       The Bill is only to help infertile couples and should act as a deterrent to commercial surrogacy.

The CII study estimated that nearly 10,000 foreign couples visit India for reproductive services and nearly 30% are either single or homosexual.

-        However, the Surrogacy Bill will disqualify homosexual couples, foreign single individuals and couples in live-in relationships from having children through surrogate mothers in India. The law also imposes age restrictions on surrogate mothers.
-        Homosexuals and foreign single individuals are barred from seeking surrogacy assistance in India.
-       Other than this, many restrictions imposed are not encouraging for business.

In earlier versions—in 2008 and 2010—the ART Bill relied on contract law to establish a relationship between the commissioning parents and the clinic. In the current version, the Bill states that a professional surrogate will be hired by a government-recognized ART Bank and not private fertility clinics, the current practice.
-         The compensation, as per the 2013 draft, will be a private negotiation between the surrogate mother and commissioning parents. Currently, IVF clinics decide the amount and pay the surrogate mother a portion. 

Last year, Home Ministry laid down certain norms on surrogacy as an immediate attempt to define the contours of surrogacy activities in India,

-        Home Ministry lays down conditions for grant of visa to foreign couples commissioning surrogacy in India
-        Home Ministry has already announced that it will not give tourist visas to foreigner nationals coming to India for commissioning surrogacy, of which several cases have been reported.
-        In order to ensure that the surrogate mother’s interests are protected, the Ministry said, such a visa may only be granted if certain conditions are fulfilled — the foreign man and woman must be duly married for at least two years.
-         The Ministry will also insist that the Indian embassy or Foreign Ministry of the country concerned enclose an acknowledgement, along with the visa application, that the country recognises surrogacy and that the child/children to be born to the commissioning couple through the Indian surrogate mother will be permitted entry into their country as a biological child/children of the couple.
-        Besides, the couple should produce a duly notarised agreement between the applicant couple and the prospective Indian surrogate mother. The Ministry has informed the Indian missions abroad that the commissioning couple needs to be told that they must obtain “exit” permission from the Foreign Regional Registration Offices before leaving India for their return journey.

Dr Neeraj Pahlajani

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