In the absence of the Opposition, the Rajya Sabha approved both the Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill, 2021, and the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2020 on Wednesday. The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill had already been approved by the Lok Sabha, but the Rajya Sabha had referred it to a Select Committee. The Bill will now be sent to the Lok Sabha for consideration.
Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said in the Rajya Sabha that both bills aim to prevent unethical activities connected to sex selection and surrogate exploitation.
“These bills have been waiting for a long time. Couples would go to India, purchase wombs, and return with children. On the 3rd of October, 1978, Kanupriya, India’s first test-tube baby, was born. IVF and surrogacy have been performed in India for decades,” according to the minister, who also said that it had become more than necessary to regulate both assisted reproductive technology (ART) and surrogacy in the nation.
According to the ministry, a 26-year-old woman died as a result of problems during egg retrieval in 2014. “Ovaries are stimulated in the ART process so that eggs may be retrieved.” He said, “This is a very technological technique that must be controlled.”
“Unmarried women sell their wombs to help them get through financial difficulties.” This should not be the case. In the state of Andhra Pradesh, a 74-year-old mother gave birth to twins. How will an elderly person raise their children? “It’s physically harmful and unethical,” the minister stated, adding that there are unlicensed IVF clinics across the nation, as well as unregulated surrogacy, implying that sex selection occurs in both directions.
“This is a progressive bill that will prevent women from being exploited,” the minister said.
Mandaviya went on to say that the Select Committee made 64 suggestions to the government, many of which were adopted into the Surrogacy Bill. They also advised that the ART and surrogacy bills be combined, since otherwise the aim would be defeated. ” And we’ve done it,” he added, adding that the Bills’ goal was to encourage motherhood rather than to establish “a commercial gain-making enterprise.” This is why, according to the minister, the government has made it so that a woman may only be a surrogate once.
Mandaviya went on to say that in the event of ART, a year’s insurance would be required, and in the case of surrogacy, the government has made it essential to offer insurance for 36 months to cover any post-birth difficulties or physical and mental health concerns.
“Penalties have also been imposed in order to deter exploitation.” A first-time offender would face a penalty of Rs 5–10 lakh for unethical actions. A repeat offender faces a fine of Rs 10-20 lakh or an eight-year jail sentence, “the minister added.
Ajit Kumar Bhuyan, an independent Rajya Sabha MP from Assam, defied the Opposition’s boycott of the Rajya Sabha to speak out against the Surrogacy Bill. But, since this Bill is so essential, I’ve chosen to speak on it, “he stated after presenting his objections to the Bill and staging a walk-out.
Another illustration of how out of touch politicians are with reality is the prohibition on commercial surrogacy. You claim that this is an effort to prevent exploitation, but in reality, by eliminating the economic component, you are restricting the rights of women surrogates. Is she supposed to provide these things for free? You further abuse her by stating that the surrogate must be a close relative. Even with traditional pregnancies, women are put under a lot of pressure, so there’s no assurance that they won’t be coerced to become surrogates by their families. The bill fails to account for domestic abuse against women. Why do women have to be altruistic about this?”Are women to suffer through this very invasive medical treatment out of love and compassion?” Bhuyan said.
Ayodhya Rama Reddy of the YSRCP, who supports the surrogacy law, says the government should consider postpartum depression and make provisions for it, as well as extend maternal benefits to both mothers. Kanakamedala Ravindra Kumar of the TDP believes that ART and IVF facilities should be expanded to all regions throughout the nation to serve the economically weaker sections.
Many women are medically unfit to have children and suffer from little-known and undetectable illnesses such as tokophobia, or the fear of childbirth, according to BJD’s Dr. Amar Patnaik. the government should consider rescinding the one-year time frame (reduced from the earlier proposed five years) stipulated for IVF treatment before allowing people to use surrogacy, he said.
Both Bhuyan and Patnaik advocated for enabling the LGBTQ population to use surrogacy rather than restricting the bill to heterosexual couples. “What happens to the LGBTQ community and unmarried people?” Surrogacy is legal in several nations. In its 2016 decision in the Devika Biswas vs Union of India case, the Supreme Court said that the right to reproduce is a basic right, and that confining the bills to heterosexual couples is a violation of this. Single mothers are eligible for ART under ICMR standards, but this is not included in either bill, “Dr. Patnaik said.”
Source: The Indian Express