September 27, 2022

India moves toward regulating assisted reproduction and surrogacy

Bill sent to law ministry for approval
India

 
India’s booming and highly publicised surrogacy industry may soon be affected by significant regulatory developments. The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, alongside the Indian Council of Medical Research, has finalised the 2010 “Assisted Reproductive Technologies (Regulation)” bill and sent it to the law ministry for approval. The 35-page bill seeks to regulate India’s highly market-driven fertility industry, and introduces a variety of policies ranging from clinic regulation to restrictions on ART access.

Women’s health groups and other human rights organizations have long sought national regulation of ART due to concerns about the exploitation of surrogates and egg donors. SAMA, a New Delhi-based women’s health resource group, sent a letter to the Indian Health Ministry detailing thoroughly its concerns, suggestions and objections to the 2008 draft bill. These included (among other issues) a failure to address and regulate the role of new “players” in the ART industry (intermediary agencies, hospitals, brokers, advertising agencies and other media, etc); failure to explicitly recognise the rights of surrogates to enter into contracts independently and have the final say in medical procedures; and inadequate acknowledgment of the medical risks to surrogates.

It is currently unclear as to the extent the language, as well as the interpretation, implementation and enforcement of the 2010 bill will address these issues and other health and social justice concerns. There are undoubtedly huge implications for reproductive tourism, which will certainly be shaped by the expected responses from international commercial ART/surrogacy agencies, rights groups, and other civil society voices. Depending on how its rules on surrogacy are interpreted and enforced, the finalised bill would disqualify gay couples, both foreign and domestic, as well as couples or individuals from countries where the practice is illegal. Steps like these in India, the business epicentre of the global ART industry, could significantly impact the global politics of reproduction “for hire”.  

Regardless of how the bill progresses, there remains a need to consider the effects of how the ART industry will interact with poverty as well as class and gender inequality in India. SAMA warns against over-emphasising technical solutions to socially complex problems: “The medical approach to address issues rooted in the social context creates more problems than it solves. Moreover, everything that is medically possible should not necessarily be legally permissible. Law is an instrument of social engineering and must be developed with consideration for all sections of society, especially those that are more vulnerable and marginalized, to prevent any kind of exploitation.” ~ Center for Genetics and Society, Feb 10
 

India moves toward regulating assisted reproduction and surrogacy
Jared Yee
fertility tourism
India
surrogacy