'Surrogacy bill needs to be discussed threadbare'
While surrogacy service providers and a section of medical practitioners support the Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill and Rules, 2008, drafted by the ministry of health and family welfare and the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR), activists feel that there was need for a wider debate before approving the draft bill.
"The bill was essential," said a surrogacy service provider on condition of anonymity. "Once there is a legal sanction for commercial surrogacy, more people will be open to the idea." He added that surrogacy was usually a secret affair and even the surrogate mothers did not want to reveal their surrogacy. But with a bill being put in place, he said, there will not only be wider acceptance towards the practice but people will also speak about it openly.
The draft bill was presented by the ICMR at a two-day national consultation on "Assisted Reproductive Technologies: Emerging concerns and future strategies" held in Delhi on September 13 and 14.
Activists, researchers, academicians, medical professionals and lawyers working on women's health and rights across the country who attended the presentation in their press statement issued on Thursday,however ,said, "We strongly feel that the focus of the draft bill tends to promote the interest of the private sector providers of these technologies rather than regulate them. We are concerned about the bill's inadequacy in protecting and safeguarding the rights and health of women and children."
Even surrogacy service providers in India say that the bill does not envisage the need to bestow more rights or protection to the surrogate mother. As the country takes a step ahead and commercialises surrogacy, there will be an amount on paper that the woman will receive as monetary compensation.
As of date, under the guidelines formulated by the ICMR, there is no monetary benefit for the surrogate. "The surrogate only agrees to rent her womb. If the child is born handicapped theparents may back out from payment. But it's not her fault for those are not her genes," said the surrogacy service provider. The bill needs to give her some protection in this regard, he added.