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Thinking surrogacy

The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill 2019 seeks to ban commercial surrogacy and contravention of the bill can invite imprisonment up to 10 years and fine up to Rs 10 lakh. The bill was passed by the 17th Lok Sabha by a voice vote in the Budget Session and moved for consideration to the Upper House by Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on November 19. A practice whereby a woman bears a child for an intending couple with the intention of handing over the child to them after birth is surrogacy. There is little doubt that this is a personal choice of the individuals involved—motivated by whatever reason—and it is only reasonable to expect that individuals' right to freedom of choice be respected. Commercial surrogacy is undertaken for monetary gain and it is but obvious that this cannot be a lasting means of minting money in case any detrimental down side is suspected. However, altruistic surrogacy, which is allowed, involves no monetary compensation to the surrogate mother other than medical expenses and insurance coverage during the pregnancy—making the massively impactful act of surrogacy virtually an act of charity. Rajya Sabha seeks a review of the provision which allows only a close relative to act as a surrogate for couples who are married for at least five years and are within the age group of 23-50 years for women and 26-55 for men. Some members of the Upper House were of opinion that with the changing fabric of the society, getting close relatives to act as a surrogate will be difficult. Women's welfare organisations have also said that the select committee should pay attention to various issues which have not been addressed in the bill. It is the natural right of a couple to want and have a child and if there is anything the state should do in this respect, it is to help and enable the individuals to exercise their right and their choice. A more progressive move would be to make provisions that will prevent any foul play in this regard and support the surrogate mother with laws and better provisions.

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