Mumbai: The Union Health Ministry's move to tighten rules for surrogacy through the Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill 2010 which is to be introduced in Cabinet has created a controversy.
According to sources, the proposal aims to ban foreigners from surrogacy in India and leaves it open only to married, infertile, Indian origin couples.
Dr Sudhir Ajja, Founder-Director of Surrogacy India, a private firm that offers surrogacy assistance to couples, says, "It is extremely surprising that Director General of Health Services has proposed an amendment that foreigners should not be allowed. I fail to understand why we are going backwards. The Supreme Court has said commercial surrogacy is a legal industry. Supreme Court has decriminalised homosexuality. Supreme Court has said that live-in relationships are legal. I don't understand why anyone would want to ban foreigners or unmarried couples."
For Swedish couple Anna and Martin, who have become proud parents to a newborn girl through an Indian surrogate mother, the news comes as a worry.
They had planned to have a second child through surrogacy in India.
Speaking to NDTV, Anna said, "I had a uterus condition so I could not get pregnant. This was a dream come true. This was the only possible way of having a child."
Her husband said, "It's the best day of my life, all thanks to the possibility of coming to India and having a surrogate baby."
However, the new proposal may simply disqualify couples like Anna and Martin.
In India, about 25,000 children are born through in-vitro fertilization or the IVF technique. India is the world's no 1 destination for surrogacy but the sector is totally unregulated.
A CII report says that 10,000 foreigners visit India for reproductive services. The bill, experts say, is a necessity to address the ethical and legal issues pertaining to surrogacy. Some of the proposals, however, like the one which says only couples married for two years can have a surrogate baby are downright illogical say doctors. For firms like Surrogacy India, 90 per cent of the clientele are foreigners.
Surrogacy been pushed into the mainstream by actors like Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan who opted to have children through the procedure. But the government's plans to regulate the surrogacy industry may actually end up killing it if the proposal to ban foreign couples from having surrogate babies in India goes through.