The new-surrogacy regulating circular is at variance with what is proposed by the ART Bill 2010, which was formulated by officials of the Ministry of Health &Family Welfare and ICMR in consultation with legal and medical experts, after considering public opinion.
The recent media reports on the new surrogacy guidelines of the Indian home ministry have led to widespread debate among various groups including the medical fraternity, surrogacy advocates, and gay rights activists. These rules looking to regularize the practice of surrogacy in India are being introduced even as the Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) Bill 2010 is awaiting parliamentary approval.
According to a report in The Times of India on January 18, 2013, the home ministry stated that it had sent a circular to foreign embassies regarding the eligibility of their respective citizens to obtain visas for seeking the service of an Indian surrogate to bear and deliver their child. The report further mentions that the ministry has formulated a number of guidelines that foreign nationals would have to fulfill to be eligible for realizing their parenthood dreams through surrogacy in India.
Foreigners arriving in India for surrogacy purposes should travel only on a medical visa.
Only foreign heterosexual married couples who have been married for two years will be considered eligible for a visa to benefit from surrogacy in the country.
These couples are required to produce a letter from their home country's foreign ministry or embassy in India stating that their country recognizes surrogacy and that the India-born baby will be allowed to enter the parents' country as their natural child.
The new norms require that the process should be carried out only at registered ART clinics recognized by the Indian Council of Medical Research.
The new rules forbid foreign gay couples and singles from having a surrogacy-born child in India. Also, unmarried foreign couples would be affected as these norms put restrictions on them for availing surrogacy services in the country. Here it needs to be mentioned that this guideline clashes with the following provision of the ART Bill 2010:
œSubject to the provisions of this Act and the rules and regulations made thereunder, assisted reproductive technology shall be available to all persons including single persons, married couples and unmarried couples.
Surrogacy has been a major contributor to India's medical tourism industry with hundreds of foreigners”heterosexual and same-sex couples and even single men and women”flocking to India every year with hopes of attaining the bliss of parenthood. Restricted by the exorbitant costs and stringent laws in their domestic countries, a multitude of intended parents sought help from India's expert doctors to have their babies delivered through well-screened Indian surrogate mothers.
Medical Tourism Corporation (MTC) which has been a facilitator of surrogacy in India has in its network a host of surrogacy centers that have been servicing a large number of international clients every year.
The low costs of Indian surrogacy programs allowed surrogacy-seekers from different parts of the world to attain parenthood, without having to suffer a major depletion in their savings. The country offers excellent services at almost half of the amount that clients usually have to shell out for availing similar procedures in the West.
The success of the surrogacy programs in India can be gauged by the innumerable surrogacy India testimonials received from satisfied parents of children born in Indian surrogacy centers.
An American couple, who sought MTC's service for availing surrogacy in India, was delighted to return home with a little girl of their own. œWe were blessed with a baby girl, who has brought much joy and excitement into our family, they said, expressing joy on having an offspring after unsuccessfully trying for 6 years.
œOur experience with MTC and the Indian fertility clinic has been a pleasure and wonderful adventure, they said about MTC and the surrogacy center.
With the Indian home ministry's attempt to regulate surrogacy tourism in India, the plight of intended parents currently in the midst of a surrogacy procedure in India will be a matter of concern. All they can do at the moment is look forward to a prompt passage of the ART Bill 2010, which will clarify all surrogacy-related doubts. Also, foreign nationals wishing to extend their family by availing surrogacy services in India in the near future should not let their spirits dampen.
As of now, there is a lot of speculation regarding the home ministry's guidelines. One can only anticipate that the ART Bill's approval brings in the much needed system of regulation into force, removing all ambiguities related to the practice of surrogacy in the country.
œWe're hoping for a rational decision from the government that is fair for all, said a spokesperson for MTC.
Although MTC does not claim to be privy on any information about this situation getting resolved on a particular date, the company believes that the government will soon come up with its decision of a national framework for standard rules to supervise surrogacy procedures in the country. Prospective clients should maintain their interest in the possibility of availing surrogacy in India and carrying on constant communication with MTC in this regard would prove to be helpful for them.