Better be late than never. Finally, the nation is going to have a regulation on the multi-crore industry of surrogacy. There are around 3000 clinics doing the business of lending wombs, sans any regulation. A woman could become a surrogate in lieu of money. The sum used to be huge and thus attracts unscrupulous elements. There is immense scope of exploitation of both the baby-seeking parents and the surrogate mother. Surrogates, mostly being poor and illiterate, are sometimes left with infant girls and deformed babies that the parents-to-be do not want to accept. For the latter, there is now 10-year jail and fine of Rs 10 lakh. Likewise, the parents are sometimes cheated by the clinic about information on the surrogate, her health condition. There will be little room left for this lacunae with the new regulation seeking only ‘close relatives’ of the parents to be eligible to become surrogate.
The biggest change the bill is going to bring is the complete abolition of the ‘fee’ of the mother. Although there will be still reason for underprivileged women to be surrogate as the ‘fee’ will be provided in guise of medical and other expenses, it will be harder for the clinics to find surrogates. On the other hand, it is likely to bring smiles to genuine (married and without children) couples as the surrogacy cost is likely to come down. Since the surrogate has to be from the ‘relatives’, it will be sympathy and concern more than money to convince her to lend her womb. The bill is also likely to put an end to the process of giving birth to a ‘profession’ of being surrogate mothers. A woman cannot become a surrogate for a second time!
Although the Centre’s concern in making only a ‘close relative’ of the couple eligible to be surrogate is understood, it is going to be very difficult to find one. Besides the money part, which will be hard to handle between relatives, the future proximity of the child and the surrogate is another concern. In present cases, the relation between the couple and the surrogate ends after birth of the child. The couple never wants the surrogate to get emotional about the child and maintains maximum distance possible with her. But in case of a ‘relative’ surrogate, keeping the child in dark about his birth may not be possible for long. The only option left with the parents will be to disclose everything to the child after some age. This might lead to conflict, but truth should prevail!
(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on August 26, 2016)