The multi-crore market in India for surrogate babies of foreigners has come to a halt, with the central government putting it on ‘hold’ till the Assisted Reproductive Techniques Bill is passed into an Act by Parliament. While foreigners are deprived of a comparatively cheap location to get their surrogate babies, Indian surrogate mothers and the medical fraternity are ruing the loss of money running into crores.
Taking note of the fact that the surrogacy industry has so far functioning purely on guidelines given by the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR), with no legal bindings to it, the Centre intervened six months ago to temporarily stop it. Bangalore used to have 30-40 surrogate deliveries a month, of which 10-15 were for international parents, mostly from US, Europe and Italy.
Dr Ramesh of Dr Ramesh Hospital Infertility and IVF Centre which is based out of Bangalore, said, “Right now, the country is mired in confusion as far as the laws pertaining to surrogacy are concerned. Until a clear law is passed to regulate the industry, foreign patients have been kept on hold.”
After the guidelines were approved in 2002, surrogacy grew rapidly in India. “But there were lot of issues pertaining the visa and on the ways on how to get the baby out of India which is why it has been kept on hold for some time,” Dr Ramesh said.
Bangalore was growing significantly with about 5-7 per cent of the surrogacy world market share. This was because of the kind of specialists available as well as the number of poor women who were ready to rent their wombs. Dr Kamini Rao (in pic), Medical Director, Milann Fertility Centre says, “The city saw a significant increase in the couples from abroad because of the affordability factor. We have the technology for both IVF and surrogacy, which attracted a lot of couples and also single moms. We are hoping that there is a clear cut guideline at least by the end of the year pertaining to surrogacy.”
Dr Rao, a pioneer of the Assisted Reproduction Fraternity in India, said Indian surrogates produced at least 2,000 foreign babies recently . Currently, couples can come in for IVF treatment but not for surrogacy.
In January last year, the government introduced a ban on gay and lesbian couples opting for surrogacy in India. Surrogacy is completely banned in some European countries while in the United States there are strict rules. Fertility specialists say that many foreign couples prefer going to Bangkok, called the new surrogacy hub in the world.
The average cost of surrogacy in India was about Rs 10-12 lakh, of which about Rs three lakh goes to the surrogate mother. “Their incomes are being hit. With surrogacy gaining momentum in the recent year, there was a newer breed of foreign patients, which has now seen a dip. By the winter session of the Parliament, we hope that things change,” Dr Rao said.
The government has recently passed an order allowing the import of human embryos for artificial reproduction. ”But this import is only for self use and cannot be implanted into an Indian surrogate mother,” Dr Rao said. The success rate in surrogacy is 10-20 per cent more as compared to the IVF.
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