India must regulate its booming surrogacy business and stop women being exploited as just a ‘womb for hire’

South China Morning Post, July 13, 2015 by Amrit Dhillon

Surrogate mothers in India are a sad lot, their lives wrapped in layers of exploitation. At the bottom of the social heap, poor and uneducated, they spend their days in drudgery either in an urban slum or a rural shack.

Poverty has forced these women to “willingly” rent their wombs to rich Indian and foreign couples. In practice, this often means that when the surrogacy contracts are being signed, they give their uninformed consent to all manner of procedures without understanding a word of what is written.

If this wasn’t bad enough, the findings of a new study on Delhi’s fertility clinics – by researchers at two Indian universities, University of Delhi and Jawaharlal Nehru University, and Aarhus University in Denmark – show that their situation is even worse, with doctors doing their utmost to please the commissioning couples, often at the risk of harm to the mother.

The study found that some doctors implant several embryos in the womb – sometimes up to five or six – to ensure a higher success rate even though medical guidelines say that transferring more than three embryos can pose a serious health risk to the mother. “In a majority of clinics, doctors alone made the decisions about the number of embryos to transfer. Some of them involved the commissioning parents but few involved the mothers,” one of the researchers said.

What is unconscionable is how the Indian government has let this billion-dollar industry continue for so long with little or no regulation.

As cases of exploitation began being reported, the government came out with the draft Assisted Reproductive Technologies bill in 2010. It provides surrogates with a range of safeguards and also lays down regulations for the thousands of fertility clinics in the country.

But, for five years, the bill has been in limbo as lawmakers are apparently too busy to discuss it.

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Anthony Brown

Anthony Brown

Attorney and Advocate at Time For Families
Who am I? On the deepest level, I am blessed. I have an amazing partner, who I have known since 1989 and been married to since 2004. I am the donor dad of two beautiful daughters who have two moms who are equally amazing. My husband and I have expanded our family through surrogacy and have a seven-year old son. I have had three careers (acting, massage therapy and the law) and I am still discovering myself. I am the Board Chair of Men Having Babies. The one thing I know for sure is that life is about trusting your instincts. Family is an instinct.
Anthony Brown