India’s Union Cabinet recently unveiled a proposed bill which would ban commercial surrogacy by the year 2016, upon introduction to and approval by the Parliament.
Commercial surrogacy is a practice which basically occurs when a couple or any individual financially pays a woman in exchange for carrying and giving birth to a baby. After the birth of the baby, the couple or individual paying the surrogate mother would then take the child in a private or legal adoption process.
Those who seek surrogacy services often include couples facing fertility problems, single individuals, or same-sex couples who want to have children of their own.
The proposed bill would effectively prohibit surrogacy for non-Indians (foreigners), unmarried couples or single parents, same sex couples, non-resident Indians, and couples who already have at least one child.
The proposed bill would allow surrogacy for heterosexual Indian couples who have been married for at least five years and who have had no previous children. Women must between the ages of twenty three and fifty and men must be between the ages of twenty six and fifty five.
The most significant part of the bill is that it will become illegal to pay the surrogate for the services to carry and deliver the child; they may only pay for medical bills, nothing more. Furthermore, the surrogate must be a close relative. Additionally, the process of surrogacy is only allowed to occur once for a couple and a person may only be a surrogate once as well.
India’s foreign minister Sushma Swaraj had said that many couples had abused surrogacy by either abandoning babies they no longer wanted or by abandoning babies born with disabilities.
Others have criticized that commercial surrogacy in effect exploits women for the purpose of “commercial gain”.
In India, the surrogacy “industry” is said to be worth two billion dollars. In fact, more than forty thousand children are born through surrogacy each year in India, making the country the top destination for surrogacy services in the world.
The reason India is so popular in terms of surrogacy is that the expense of surrogacy is relatively lower in comparison to the costs in the United States. According to the medical journal The Lancet, Indian surrogate mothers are often paid between five to seven thousand dollars. On the other hand, surrogate mothers in the United States are usually paid twenty-five thousand dollars.
Regardless of the disparity in payment, many Indian women who elect to become surrogates often do so due to dire economic need and financial hardship, as poverty remains a significant issue in India.
Opponents to the bill assert that by banning surrogacy or placing such drastic limits to the practice, those who wish to experience parenthood would be denied the chance to do so and women who wish to be surrogates would lose this way to earn money.