The bill on surrogacy legalizes ART procedures for live-in couples as well as single women but discriminates against LGBTQ people and single fathers, say experts.
Talking to IANS, Prof Satendra Singh from University College of Medical Sciences, Delhi, contended that the law also contradicts the spirit of the Supreme Court’s 2018 landmark verdict in the Navtej Johar v Union of India case, decriminalizing all consensual sex among adults, including homosexual sex.
The Rajya Sabha on Wednesday gave the nod for two important bills for the regulation of the practice of surrogacy and other reproductive technologies – the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019 and the Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill, 2020. However, the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2020 was passed by the upper house with amendments. It was earlier passed by the Lok Sabha, but the Rajya Sabha had referred it to a Select Committee. It will now go back to the Lok Sabha for approval.
The bill to regulate and supervise assisted reproductive technology has got the Parliament’s nod.
The surrogacy bill prohibits commercial surrogacy in India and only allows altruistic surrogacy which has been defined in the bill as surrogacy in which no money or remuneration except medical expenses are provided for the surrogate mother by the couple. Commercial surrogacy which involves the selling or buying of a human baby has been banned by this legislation.
The bill has also a provision for taking written and informed consent from the surrogate mother ahead of the procedure for surrogacy and that the surrogate can withdraw her consent anytime before the implantation of the embryo.
Dr Anant Bhan, Researcher, Global Health, Bioethics and Health Policy, says that the surrogacy bill is a welcome step given the concerns regarding the need for regulation on an urgent basis. However, restricting the option of surrogacy to only cis-heterosexual couples is problematic as it excludes the availability of surrogacy to single persons and the LGBTQIA+ community, he adds.
An estimate suggests that about 20 percent of all surrogacy cases in India comprise single men and women. “This is a non-progressive step and needs to be examined and addressed. Rights to access this technology should be available to them too. Also, the challenge with any new legislation often lies in its implementation,” said Dr Bhan.
Dr Divya Pandey, an Associate Professor and IVF faculty at Safdarjung Hospital, terms the ART Regulation Bill, 2021 an important measure to curb the misuse and unethical practices. She said that it will help regulate and supervise ART clinics and banks across the country and will help prevent wrong practices.
She said that the bill has clearly defined the eligibility criteria for being a commissioning couple and the upper age limit has been determined at 55 years which is an important feature. “Earlier, we used to come across several instances of couples becoming parents by IVF in their 60s and 70s which is definitely not ethical keeping in view their health at this age.”
Pandey also told IANS that there is a clear guideline in the bill forbidding ART clinics to advertise sex selection.
She also said: “In the past, there have been many instances of these children being abandoned by the commissioning couple on grounds of genetic disease or sometimes even nationality by the foreign couples. These practices will be checked.”