There is no doubt that commercial surrogacy became an uncontrollable monster after it was legalised in India in 2001.
The Lok Sabha has just passed the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019. Given how surrogacy sweatshops have mushroomed—the government estimates at least 3,000 surrogacy centres that exploit thousands of women drawn to surrogacy at significant health costs—there was a crying need to regulate commercial surrogacy.
The government has, instead, focussed on banning it. The Bill allows only altruistic surrogacy, that too by a close relative of a childless couple. The latter should be married and should have been childless for five years before. Thus, widows, unmarried persons, divorcees, live-in and homosexual couples, even married couples with children are barred from opting for surrogacy.
There is no doubt that commercial surrogacy became an uncontrollable monster after it was legalised in India in 2001. Poor, vulnerable women rented out their wombs for a fraction of what the client was paying infertility vultures, who acted as commission agents. Most women were ignorant of the risks—a 2015 study led by a Danish doctor found Indian surrogates to be completely unaware of the risks of implantation of multiple embryos, foetus reduction or caesarian sections to time delivery as per the client’s convenience.
Banning commercial surrogacy is hardly the answer. A better solution would have been to allow commercial surrogacy while making surrogates aware of the risks and ensuring their health and commercial interests are protected. The government should consider gradually relaxing the ban—once sweatshops are history, the proposed National Surrogacy Board could allow regulated commercial surrogacy.