Sunday, August 4, 2013

More Jibba Jabba about surrogacy from Indian media

More articles about the Surrogacy Bill in Indian media recently with conflicting information.  

In the first article the "Department of Health Research on Friday said there is no proposal to have an expert committee to re-look the proposed legislation".

In the second article "The Centre will set up an expert committee for wider consultations on the draft Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) Bill, 2010".

So which is it?

I'm not sure who "The Centre" referred to in article two is; nor who or what is the "Planning Commission. Is there actually a legitimate group with a government mandate discussing the wider issues of surrogacy and its stakeholders with a view to getting this dusty Bill off the shelf and into law? The original Bill was written in 2008, revised in 2010 and apparently revised again in 2012. 

What is missing from this debate? A voice for the consumers of surrogacy services, the commissioning parents, who fund this billion dollar industry. There is no-one to represent the rights of the customer. No-one to arbitrate on our behalf when things get dodgy, no-one to penalise clinics and agencies that do the wrong thing by the customer - in the words of the Democrats, the now-defunct "third" political party in Australian politics, there is no-one to "keep the bastards honest". We are piggie in the middle between womens' rights groups who regard us as exploiters of poor Indian women and the agencies and clinics which too often treat us as walking ATMs with deep pockets.  Who represents the commissioning parent? Can you imagine if we were given options for family creation in our own countries ... a mass walk-out would very quickly smarten up those who take advantage of the IP ... but that's not about to happen. They have us by the short and curlies, and they know it.

Bill soon to regulate fast expanding business of surrogacy
Keen on bringing a new bill to regulate the fast expanding business of surrogacy and assisted reproductive technology clinics, the Department of Health Research on Friday said there is no proposal to have an expert committee to relook the proposed legislation. Holding that the bill is a comprehensive legislation framed after discussions with all stakeholders and which takes care of the interests of the woman and child during surrogacy, the Department of Health Research in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare wants the legislation enacted soon.
Besides framing regulations for surrogacy, the draft Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill circulated to various ministries seeks to regulate the ART clinics and banks across the country and proposes to set up a national registry for them which will be a central data bank. The Department has called for early enactment of the bill saying a lot of time has gone into holding of discussions and seeking of suggestions from various stakeholders.
"At present, there is no proposal to have any expert committee in the Department of Health Research to look into the draft ART (Regulation) Bill," said a senior official in the Department. "There is urgent need to have a law to regulate ART clinics and put in place regulations for surrogacy. This is a very important bill and we are very serious to introduce it in Parliament," he said.

Of surrogacy and the law
Aarti Duhar
The Centre will set up an expert committee for wider consultations on the draft Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) Bill, 2010. The committee will deliberate upon very “grave and critical” concerns raised by stakeholders and explore possible ways to address these issues. 
The decision was taken after the Planning Commission recommended substantive changes in the legislation and advised the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) against pushing the draft Bill till the process of consultations was satisfactorily concluded. 
The Planning Commission will coordinate the process of forming and facilitating this committee towards developing an efficient regulatory framework and legislation. This comes after a meeting convened by the plan panel with stakeholders in the Capital earlier this week who made a pitched demand for setting up an expert committee to look into some of the provisions of the Bill, according to Sama, a non-governmental organisation working on women’s health. 
Sama has been engaged in Assisted Reproductive Technologies and commercial surrogacy, through research, advocacy, and creation of resources (including a recent film on surrogacy) over the past eight years. 
The outfit was invited by the Planning Commission as part of their Civil Society Window initiative to present its views on commercial surrogacy in India.  The meet, chaired by Dr. Syeda Hameed, Member, Planning Commission, was attended by representatives from the Planning Commission, Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, ICMR, Union Ministry of Law and Justice, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), and Office of the Registrar General of India, amongst others. 
The discussion flagged concerns with regard to the unregulated industry, unethical practices, especially lack of protection of the surrogate women’s health and rights, sex selection, lack of employment opportunities, and other health and rights issues of children born through surrogacy arrangements, and issues related to their citizenship. 
Given the presence of Dr R.S. Sharma (member secretary Drafting Committee of the Draft ART Bills 2008 and 2010), the deliberations focused on the content and provisions of the Bill. The “short-sightedness” of some of the provisions, the absence of sufficient protection for surrogate women and in general the lack of transparency, consultative processes involving domain experts, including organisations in the drafting of the Bill,  and lack of clarity on nodal authority, were issues raised by the members. 
The ART Bill has been hanging fire since 2008 when the first draft was prepared. It was revised in 2010 but is yet to get a final approval from the Union Law Ministry following which it will go to the Cabinet for clearance.
Commercial surrogacy is a multi-million dollar industry in India but there is no legislation to regulate surrogacy which is resulting in exploitation of poor women who offer their wombs for a price without realising the adverse health impacts.   
Health activists feel that the ART draft Bill is designed to regularise and promote the interest of the providers (mainly the private sector) of these technologies rather than regulate and monitor the current practices. The Bill is also inadequate in protecting and safeguarding the rights and health of the women who undergo these ART procedures, surrogates, egg donors and of the children born through these techniques. 
In the context of surrogacy, the draft Bill at present constructs surrogacy as an isolated problem and proceeds to resolve conflicts engendered by the practice, a perspective that is in favour of the industry. The surrogacy industry, in effect, seeks to open up the market by removing any legal impediments in its smooth functioning. It is also decidedly in favour of commissioning parents, Sama points out. 
“Lack of transparency from ICMR on this ART Bill is quite known to us for many years. We were appalled to learn that ICMR has again revised the draft Bill 2010 which we came to know only at the Planning Commission (the 2012 ART Bill is not on the ICMR website). The Ministry and ICMR have never made an effort to have any consultation on this Bill with women’s rights, child rights, health rights and legal rights organisations,” activists said while hoping that the Planning Commission meeting would lead to some positive outcome towards greater civil society participation. 


crystal said...

I was sent this article yesterday, but it certainly lacks clarity. Do you think we will get a decision by September or not? I am trying to get information from behind the scenes as well.

Kim H. said...

As we all know very well, nothing happens in India "on time". While we may see some "rules and regulations", I seriously doubt, based on discussions I have had within the industry, that we will see a resolution on opening up to singles once more. I just do not think that the support that we are all hoping for is there. I note the article constantly refers to "couples", so that worries me. Who knows? It all just feels like a gamble of time that many do not wish to take. What a shame for so many Intended Parents, and for the industry and India itself. So, instead of sitting around waiting, I think that we all need to look at safe and affordable alternatives in other countries. I hate to say that, but why, if there are alternatives, are we all waiting with our breaths held for a country that really messed things up with their own mistake in doing this in the first place?