The government on Wednesday moved the Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill which proposes the establishment of a national registry and registration authority for all clinics and medical professionals serving in the field.
Moving the bill for consideration and passage in the Lok Sabha, Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said it was tabled in Parliament in September, 2020, and the Lower House had referred it to a standing committee.
Many suggestions came from the standing committee and the government considered them, he said.
The standing committee’s report on the bill was submitted in March this year.
The Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill, 2020 seeks for the regulation and supervision of Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) clinics and ART banks, prevention of misuse, safe and ethical practice of ART services and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto, be taken into consideration.
“Many such ART clinics have been running in the country without regulation. A need was felt for regulation of such clinics as there are implications on health of those who undertake the procedure,” Mandaviya said.
Initiating a debate on the bill, Congress’s Karti Chidambaram said this law is Victorian as it is not all encompassing.
It excludes those who cannot afford this expensive procedure for a baby and the government should consider supporting poor, childless parents for taking ART’s help, Chidambaram said.
He also suggested that the government consider including lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender people (LGBTQ) in the bill’s ambit.
BJP’s Heena Gavit said the bill seeks to set minimum standards and codes of conduct for fertility clinics and egg or sperm banks. It also proposes stringent punishment for those practising sex selection and sale of human embryos or gametes.
She said about 80 per cent of ART clinics are not registered and the bill will ensure strict adherence to guidelines.
“Ensuring confidentiality of commissioning couples, women and donors will also be done under the aegis of this proposal of the Cabinet. The bill also has a provision that those involved in trafficking and sale of embryos will be fined Rs 10 lakh at first instance and in second instance, the person can be imprisoned for up to 12 years,” she added.
TMC MP Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar also mentioned scientist and pioneer of test tube babies, Subhash Mukherjee, who was recently recognised by the Mamata Banerjee-led government in West Bengal for his work four decades after his death.
Speaking on the bill, Dastidar, herself a specialist in the field, said experts should be involved at every level to monitor the bill’s provisions.
She also said “banks” under the bill should be abolished, unless they are associated with labs.
YSRCP’s B Venkata Satyavathi said twhile she and her party supported the bill, there are only six IVF centres in government sector, while thousands exist in private sector.
JD(U)’s Alok Kumar Suman contended that the cost of the procedure should be effectively monitored so that even the poor can can avail its services.
BSP’s Sangeeta Azad and TMC’s Dastidar both raised the issue of exclusion of single parents and LGTBQ community from using this procedure. “They have a right to be parents too,” both said.
Welcoming the bill, NCP’s Supriya Sule said that besides couples, there are a cross-section of people in this country who want to have a child, especially the LGBTQ community and single men.
She said that because of adoption rules of 2017, single men cannot adopt a girl and that is why they can not avail this bill’s benefits.
“This is something we, as a society, need to introspect… I think we should not deprive any human being who deserves or wants to have a child. Why do we not put all the bright minds together… and see how we can make sure that everybody can make use of all legislations we make,” Sule said.
She also said there should not be any jail terms for doctors.
BJD’s Anubhav Mohanty also said the bill discriminates against the LGBTQ community.
He said the health minister should reconsider this bill and should not bring it in in a hurry as there are some issues that need consideration.
Mohanty also suggested setting up of a separate ministry for children.
Supporting the bill, BJP’s Rita Bahuguna Joshi said stringent measures are necessary to streamline things.
During the discussion, RSP’s N K Premachandran raise the point of order on an issue related to the bill which is dependent upon another bill.
“Surrogacy bill is pending in the Upper House, that has not been passed. How can this House pass a law depending upon another law… My point is that this bill cannot be taken into consideration, this bill cannot be discussed,” he said.
Responding to this, Mandaviya said that the surrogacy bill was passed in the Lok Sabha and now it is in the Rajya Sabha, and immediately after that “we brought this ART bill” and both the bills would now be taken up in the Upper House together.
CPI(M) MP A M Ariff said the point of order raised by Premachandran should be considered as the clarification given by the minister was not sufficient.
Premachandran added that there was a procedural irregularity in this bill and it was a “bad” legislative practice.
“Suppose the Rajya Sabha does not pass the surrogacy bill, then what will be the fate of this bill,” he asked. Supporting the bill, he said, “something is better than nothing” but also suggested bringing in a comprehensive bill.