Did you know that many women were exploited before December 2018, through commercial surrogacy in India? This raised concerns among human rights groups to establish a legal framework, wherein the surrogate mother or the baby cannot be exploited for making a profit.
But what exactly were the exploitations about? Or more precisely, what are the issues related to surrogacy in India?
Surrogacy: What is it?
Surrogacy is a process of assisted reproduction whereby a surrogate agrees to bear the child(ren) of another couple in her womb without having any parental rights over the child(ren). The method is used when various medical reasons prevent the intended parent(s) to conceive.
Basically, there are two types of surrogacy:
- Gestational, wherein the gametes belong to the intended parents.
- Traditional, wherein the eggs would belong to the surrogate while the sperm would come from the intended father.
Gestational surrogacy is considered preferable due to various moral and legal implications. Additionally, the debate of surrogacy has extended to how far can commercial surrogacy be acceptable. Now you might question what is a commercial surrogacy?
Surrogacy can be carried out in two forms: commercial and altruistic. While in altruistic surrogacy, the surrogate is not paid in any monetary terms or given a financial incentive, it is done so in the case of commercial surrogacy.
What are the issues that arise?
Prior to 2018, India had come to be known as the global commercial hub of surrogacy as people from various countries would opt for a relatively inexpensive service in India. This paved the way for the introduction of the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill in 2016 to ban commercial surrogacy.
The reasons that were put forward for the same included many:
Profitability and lack of transparency:
One major reason for the need of banning commercial surrogacy was because of how exploitative it had become, especially for the women in the lower-income strata. The various commercial agencies and clinics involved as middlemen would profit heavily in lieu of the surrogate mothers who would agree to any terms and conditions to earn a square meal for their family. In case of an unsuccessful pregnancy, the women were unlikely to be paid or covered by any medical insurance.
The entire concept of surrogacy is debated on the ground that a woman, especially when she is from a necessitous group of the society, is often ostracized for being a surrogate. To avoid the same, the surrogate mother is arranged for, in a hostel during the period of her pregnancy, away from her family. Since, in a country like India, where poverty is rampant, surrogacy is often viewed to be an income-generating source, human rights activists have raised this issue of ‘body for rent’ as dehumanizing.
A foreign couple opting for a surrogacy procedure in India would have to bear the brunt of the language barrier, completion of formalities which takes quite long, citizenship, rights of the child etc.
Associated health risk:
While in the US, no more than two embryos are allowed for implantation, it is five in the case of India. This augments the health risk for the babies along with the mother. Fertility treatments during artificial insemination may involve certain risks along with that of multiple pregnancies which increase the probability of operative delivery.
A certain complication which is accompanied in surrogacy is breastfeeding and henceforth, establishing a bond between the intended mother and child.
Ideally, the surrogate mother is advised to not develop a bond with the child. But let’s try to understand that the entire process can be quite emotionally challenging for the woman. It is very natural to have pregnancy blues but unlike a normal pregnancy, the surrogate mother knows that she will have to bid adieu to the child after giving birth. This calls for a support system within the family as well as a professional medical help.
It is quite obvious that each religion will have its own rules pertaining to surrogacy. As the laws vary from one country to the other, so does it vary according to the faiths.
Other probable issues:
There have been cases where the surrogate mother has refused to part with the child or the intended parents have refused to accept the child. This raises the questions of the child being abandoned.
What should you keep in mind?
All the laws and hitches kept aside; surrogacy is essentially a beautiful gift that a woman presents to an intended parent. Hence, the struggle that she goes through before, during and after the pregnancy, both in emotional as well as medical terms must be taken into account which cannot be compensated through a monetary value.
Once you decide to be a parent, it is helpful to remember that every child is special, and none should be abandoned in this big, vast world. Surrogacy or not, the child would be yours and deserves every bit of your heart.