Major change for surrogacy in India
20 November 2015 by Charlotte Knappett
The Indian government has announced a ban on foreigners travelling to India and using surrogate mothers. The ban has arisen amid claims about ‘baby factories’ and the exploitation of Indian surrogate mothers. In recent years India had become the home of the world’s most thriving surrogacy industry, which is estimated to be worth £1.5 billion by the Confederation of Indian Industry (reported by other sources as 9 billion rupees).
The government imposed the ban in response to a court case challenging the legality of the industry. Later, the Supreme Court will decide whether to confirm the ban in law. “Commercial surrogacy has evolved into surrogacy tourism,” the Supreme Court said last month in an earlier hearing.
Commercial surrogacy is illegal in much of the world. In England and Wales, surrogacy agreements are not enforceable and the surrogate mother is only allowed to be paid ‘reasonable expenses’. On the other hand, in countries where commercial surrogacy is permitted it can be prohibitively expensive. India had an unregulated market with a high level of medical expertise and large pool of surrogate mothers. The cost of surrogacy in India was considered to be much more affordable than other countries. Costs averaged about £20,000, of which up to £7,000 went to the surrogate mother.
The sudden announcement of the ban has understandably caused anguish among foreign couples whose unborn babies are being carried by Indian surrogates or those who have embryos frozen in India. In light of this, the Indian government has said that the ban will only apply to foreign couples who have not yet started the surrogacy process. However, for many who have not started the process but planned to do so, it may mean they have to look at other options.
Further, the ban also applies to the import and export of embryos for commercial surrogacy. If a couple have stored frozen embryos at an Indian clinic, the ban means that the embryos could be held in India and not released.
The Telegraph reports that Dr Nayana Patel is the director of the Akashanka Fertility Clinic and a pioneer of the procedure. Speaking of the ban, she said “It is pathetic and insulting to hear terms such as ‘baby factories’ being bandied around.” She continued, “Nobody should be commenting on, or taking away the livelihoods of the surrogates.”
Dr Patel’s clinic is located in the city of Anand and is at the centre of the surrogacy boom. About 200 couples a year visit Anand, many of them to see Dr Patel. In October, her clinic delivered its 1,000th surrogate baby.
There are of course many legal and ethical issues that arise in respect of Surrogacy. For further information about the legal aspects of the surrogacy process and other forms of fertility treatment, please click here.