The Lok Sabha, the lower house of the Indian parliament, has cleared The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019, recently.
The bill prohibits commercial surrogacy and allows “altruistic surrogacy” which does not involve monetary compensation to the surrogate mother apart from medical expenses and insurance coverage during the pregnancy.
One of the major aims of the bill is to prohibit the exploitation of surrogate mothers and children born through surrogacy and allows “ethical surrogacy” to the needy infertile Indian couples.
Surrogacy is allowed for couples who suffer from proven infertility, provided they have a ‘certificate of essentiality’ and a ‘certificate of eligibility’ issued by appropriate authorities.
Surrogacy clinics cannot undertake surrogacy related procedures unless they are registered by the appropriate authority.
The offences under the bill include undertaking or advertising commercial surrogacy, exploiting the surrogate mother, abandoning, exploiting or disowning a surrogate child and selling or importing human embryo or gametes for surrogacy.
Any registered medical practitioner, gynaecologist, paediatrician, embryologist or any person, who owns a surrogacy clinic or is employed with such a clinic or centre or laboratory and renders his professional or technical services to or at such clinic or centre or laboratory, whether on an honorary basis or otherwise, and who contravenes any of the provisions of this Act and the rules and regulations made under it, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years and with fine which may extend to ten lakh rupees.
Besides this, the bill lays down that details of medical practitioners found to be in violation of the Act would be sent to state medical councils for appropriate action, including suspension of the license for a period of 5 years.
Even though the bill was passed by the previous Lok Sabha in December 2018, it lapsed with its dissolution.
Regulation of surrogacy clinics
The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019 enlists the following for the regulation of clinics on and from the date of commencement of this Act:
i. No surrogacy clinic, unless registered under this Act, shall conduct or associate with, or help in any manner, in conducting activities relating to surrogacy and surrogacy procedures
ii. No surrogacy clinic, paediatrician, gynaecologist, embryologist, registered medical practitioner or any person shall conduct, offer, undertake, promote or associate with or avail of commercial surrogacy in any form
iii. No surrogacy clinic shall employ or cause to be employed or take services of any person, whether on honorary basis or on payment who does not possess such qualifications as may be prescribed
iv. No registered medical practitioner, gynaecologist, paediatrician, embryologist or any other person shall conduct or cause to be conducted or aid in conducting by himself or through any other person surrogacy or surrogacy procedures at a place other than a place registered under this Act
v. No surrogacy clinic, registered medical practitioner, gynaecologist, paediatrician, embryologist or any other person shall promote, publish, canvass, propagate or advertise or cause to be promoted, published, canvassed, propagated or advertised which—
(a) is aimed at inducing or is likely to induce a woman to act as a surrogate mother
(b) is aimed at promoting a surrogacy clinic for commercial surrogacy or promoting commercial surrogacy in general
(c) seeks or aimed at seeking a woman to act as a surrogate mother
(d) states or implies that a woman is willing to become a surrogate mother or
(e) advertises commercial surrogacy in print or electronic media or in any other form
vi. No surrogacy clinic, registered medical practitioner, gynaecologist, paediatrician, embryologist, intending couple or any other person shall conduct or cause abortion during the period of surrogacy without the written consent of the surrogate mother and on authorisation of the same by the appropriate authority concerned:
Provided that the authorisation of the appropriate authority shall be subject to, and in compliance with, the provisions of the
Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971
vii. No surrogacy clinic, registered medical practitioner, gynaecologist, paediatrician, embryologist, intending couple or any other person shall store a human embryo or gamete for the purpose of surrogacy:
Provided that nothing contained in this clause shall affect such storage for other legal purposes like sperm banks, IVF and medical research for such period and in such manner as may be prescribed
viii. No surrogacy clinic registered medical practitioner, gynaecologist, paediatrician, embryologist, intending couple or any other person shall in any form conduct or cause to be conducted sex selection for surrogacy.