India’s Surrogate Mothers: What ‘Mimi’s Womb For Hire Story Missed Out On

Remember when Phoebe buffay from popular sitcom F.R.I.E.N.D.S agreed to become mother of his brother’s child ..yeah that’s her agreeing to become a surrogate mother since her sister-in-law couldn’t conceive. In United States of America, surrogacy is regulated in most of the states and in UK it must be altruistic though it’s legal. 

But what about India ? What are the surrogacy laws in India? Recently a movie ‘Mimi’, starring Kriti Sanon and Pankaj Tripathi, a dedicated charismatic actor, brought this lesser known subject and the plight of Indian Surrogate mothers in public domain. 
Though the movie doesn’t highlight the profiteering and neglected health care of surrogates in India, primerly done by clinics and agencies, it does highlight the need for laws to stop the exploitation of Indian Surrogate mothers. 

An ICMR (Indian council of medical research) guideline came out in 2002 laid out some basic guidelines that fertility clinics were supposed to follow :

  • Surrogacy arrangement will continue to be governed by contract amongst parties, which will contain all the terms requiring consent of surrogate mother to bear child, agreement of her husband and other family members for the same, medical procedures of artificial insemination, reimbursement of all reasonable expenses for carrying child to full term, willingness to hand over the child born to the commissioning parent(s), etc. But such an arrangement should not be for commercial purposes.
  • A surrogacy arrangement should provide for financial support for surrogate child in the event of death of the commissioning couple or individual before delivery of the child, or divorce between the intended parents and subsequent willingness of none to take delivery of the child.
  • A surrogacy contract should necessarily take care of life insurance cover for surrogate mother.

India opened up to commercial surrogacy in 2002 on the lines of USA and some other countries Including Russia, Ukraine, Thailand etc. and quickly took the leadership role in this sector due to various reasons which I’m not going to dwell intobut lack of proper legal guidelines/laws lead to the exploitation of Indian Surrogates by clinics and agencies. 
Many critics pointed out the exploitation of poor women in India by many agencies since these agencies used to hire them at cut-rate cost to bear the hardship and risk of losing lives. 
In 2012, a UN backed study estimated the Indian surrogacy business at 400M USD per annum, though the actual figure might be much larger, even back then. 

In 2013 an Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill was drafted aiming to ban commercial surrogacy in India, and also ban homosexual couples, single people, live-in partners, Couples already having one child, foreign citizens or OCI holders from using surrogacy. Though the bill was not presented in parliament, it seemed like a good move. 
Then a Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill was introduced and passed in Lok Sabha of Indian parliament in year 2016, aiming to permit only Indian hetrosexual couple who are married for at least 5 years to opt for unpaid surrogacy, i.e. banning commercial surrogacy altogether. The bill was never passed until 2019 when it was passed by Lok Sabha but it still needs to be passed by Rajyasabha, the Upper House of Indian parliament and be signed by The President of India to become law. 

Why Indian surrogacy business attracts foreigners:

Priya shetty, for Lancet, writes, ”The difficulty and expense of having a baby through surrogacy in the West is driving thousands of couples to India where a lack of red tape and high-quality medical care means that the process is easy, cheap, and hassle-free”. And she’s absolutely right as you can see the laws in India regarding surrogacy at present aren’t at par with other countries. 

The cost of having a kid in India via Surrogacy is also a factor. A report by ‘Families through surrogacy’, an international non-profit concludes the costs of surrogacy as follows- 
US – $100,000 (£60,000)

  • Thailand – $52,000
  • Ukraine – $49,950
  • Georgia – $49,950
  • India – $47,350
  • Mexico – $45,000
    And in India a little part of that amount is expended on the health of mother after and during pregnancy due to greedy agencies and clinics.

Also Read: How Anxiety Is Causing Weight Gain Among Youngsters

How many embroys a surrogate can be implanted with ?

Remember how Phoebe was surprised to find out that the doctor is going to implant her with more than one ”embroys” ? She ended up having triplets for her brother! 

In India the ICMR guidelines suggest it to be ‘Three Embroys’ to avoid complications and for the safety of the surrogates but there are multiple reports of ICMR guidelines being flouted left and right.  Many clinics implant the Surrogate with 5-6 embroys as the process is very expensive and they don’t want it to result in no pregnancy but this is too high and can cause potential extreme complications. 
The US state of New York brought a Surrogates Bill of Rights in 2015, which states that ”surrogates get to consent to a multiple embryo transfer, decision to keep or reduce the number of fetuses or embryos they are carrying, and to a cesarean delivery”.
In UK its 1-2. 

What should be the legal age to become a surrogate?

In India, the woman should be below 45 years of age and in good health as per ICMR guidelines but the drafted bill in 2019 reduced it to 35 years. In the state of New Hampshire in USA, the woman must be minimum 21 years of age and previously given birth. In UK and some other US states there is no minimum age bar but the upper limit is considered to be 35 years. 

(Featured Image : Photo by Vijayanand Gupta/Hindustan Times via Getty Image, Anand, Gujrat)

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