Millennium Post

Surrogate mother need not to be close relative: Parl panel

New Delhi: A parliamentary panel has recommended that not only close relatives but any woman who is "willing" should be allowed to act as a surrogate.

The 15 major changes suggested by the 23-member select committee of Rajya Sabha to the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019, also include deleting the definition of 'infertility' as the inability to conceive after five years of unprotected intercourse on the ground that it was too long a period for a couple to wait for a child.

The committee has also advocated that 'single Indian woman' like a widow or a divorcee in the age group of 35 to 45 years may also be allowed to avail surrogacy.

Noting that restricting the surrogate mother to be a 'close relative' potentially limits the availability of surrogate mothers, affecting the genuinely needy persons, the panel has recommended removal of this requirement from the Bill.

The Committee recommended that "a willing woman shall act as surrogate mother and be permitted to undergo surrogacy procedures as per the provisions of this Act."

It also suggested increasing the insurance cover for the surrogate mother from proposed 16 months to 36 months.

The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019 is yet to be passed by the Rajya Sabha.

The committee held 10 meetings since the Bill was referred to it by the Rajya Sabha on November 21, 2019.

Chairman of the committee Bhupender Yadav presented the report on Wednesday.

Regarding the eligibility criteria for availing surrogacy procedure, the committee recommended removing the provision of requirement of five years as the period of inability to conceive before opting for the procedure.

It noted that there may be certain proven medical conditions like absence of uterus by birth, non-functional uterus, removal of uterus due to cancer, fibroids etc or patients with chronic medical condition where normal pregnancy is ruled out and it is medically proven beyond any doubt that surrogacy is the only option.

The panel further observed that the requirement of obtaining certificate of proven infertility is not at all justified in such cases.

With the proposed deletion of the definition of 'infertility', needy persons can avail surrogacy any time on the basis of a certificate of medical indication requiring gestational surrogacy, it said.

"There are conditions under which a single person genuinely needs to avail surrogacy option to have child. One such situation is a young aged widow, who is otherwise capable but cannot carry child because of fear of social stigma attached to pregnancy of widow in our society," the panel noted.

The panel also proposed that a provision be included in the Bill allowing persons of Indian origin (PIOs) to avail surrogacy in the country after obtaining a certificate of recommendation from the Surrogacy Boards.

Noting that the procedure of surrogacy poses risks of medical complications and health hazards, post-partum (after delivery) and to secure the mother financially and health-wise, the committee sought an increase in the insurance coverage from 16 months to 36 months.

The Committee also recommended a modification in the definition of altruistic surrogacy so as to cover 'other prescribed expenses' on nutritional food required and maternity-wear etc, vital for the wellbeing and upkeep of the surrogate mother.

In order to protect the interest of the child born through surrogacy, the committee recommended that the order regarding parentage and custody of child to be issued by a Magistrate shall be the birth affidavit of surrogate child.

As a general recommendation, the select committee recommended that the Assisted Reproductive Technologies (Regulation) Bill which is awaiting cabinet approval may be taken up before the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill since the ART Bill primarily deals with technical, scientific and medical aspects which also apply to storage of embryo, gamete, oocyte etc. as contained in the Surrogacy Bill.

The Committee asked the appropriate authorities of the central and state governments to submit data on number of surrogacy procedures, surrogacy clinics and all related aspects to the National Board on Surrogacy to develop a proper database which helps in monitoring and regulation of surrogacy in the country.

Other recommendations of the committee relate to enhancing the term of experts on the surrogacy boards from one year as proposed in the Bill to three years and officials of sufficiently higher rank to be the Chairman and Vice Chairman of appropriate authorities.

Strongly backing the provision of the Bill allowing only altruistic surrogacy and not commercial surrogacy, the panel opined that "the sublime and divine instinct of motherhood could not be allowed to be turned into mechanical paid service of pro-creation devoid of divine warmth and affection."

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