Aastha Sharma | The Hindu | 24 July 2010
Surrogacy regulation may well be one of Hilbert’s unsolvable problems. Only this is not mathematics and there are already many versions of the ‘solution’ in existence. It has been a decade since the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare have been trying to regulate the ‘fertility industry’ that is proliferating unchecked all over the country, and yet we do not have comprehensive legislation in our hands. So far, there have been a set of draft guidelines (2002), the finalised guidelines (2005), the draft Bill 2008, the draft Bill 2010 and a Law Commission report (2009) — all with a mix of contradicting, progressive, regressive, rights protecting and profit-protecting clauses. The draft Assisted Reproductive Technologies (Regulation) Bill and Rules 2010, the latest version, has not been made public yet, and only glimpses of some of its clauses can be caught through recent news reports.
The draft Bill 2008 was widely criticised by health and rights experts and civil society organisations mainly on the ground that it promoted and facilitated profit making by private doctors and compromised on the health and rights of the surrogates and the children born. For instance, it allowed a woman to act as a surrogate for three different couples and she could undergo an embryo transfer three times for each couple. This means she could undergo nine cycles of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), which could play havoc with her health. It seemed that the Bill looked at surrogates as reproductive vehicles, turning surrogacy into a method that could be relied on for earning a livelihood. The Law Commission report, however, took a U-turn: it recommended banning commercial surrogacy, while allowing altruistic surrogacy.