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Thursday, February 26, 2015

SC notice to govt on PIL seeking ban on commercial surrogacy

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Union government to respond to a PIL seeking a ban on commercial surrogacy, alleging that lax laws had allowed rampant commercialization of motherhood, exploiting poor women to turn India into the world's surrogacy capital.

A bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and N V Ramana issued notices to ministries of home affairs, law and justice, health and family welfare, commerce and external affairs as well as the Medical Council of India (MCI) and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and asked them to respond to the PIL filed by Jayashree Wad, an advocate on record in Supreme Court since 1976.

Wad gave a brief background of the litigation relating to "Baby M" surrogacy case of 1986 in New Jersey in the US in which the US Supreme Court quashed the surrogacy agreement though it gave custodial rights to the biological father and his wife. She contended that the UK parliament saw the unethical nature of the agreement and banned commercial surrogacy in 1990.

She said taking advantage of lax laws that allowed foreign couples to import embryo and transplant it in Indian surrogate mothers, there had been rampant commercialization of surrogacy in India which exploited women belonging to poor and lower middle-class strata of society.

"These women who act as surrogate mothers render their services for a fee. In the process of surrogate motherhood, a commercial element is introduced and Indian women are exploited and substantial benefit is derived by doctors, hospitals and institutions involved in it. This amounts to exploitation of women for commercial gains," the petitioner said.

Citing the December 2, 2013 notification by the commerce ministry, the petitioner said it allowed import of embryo as 'goods'. "Human embryo, which is human being in miniature form, cannot be classified either as 'goods' or 'service'. The notification is thus illegal and requires to be quashed," Wad said.

Narrating the possible impact of surrogacy on women who rent their wombs, the PIL said, "Large-scale exploitation of surrogate mothers in India involves the danger of creating a section in Indian society which may suffer mental trauma due to social conditions. Giving birth to a child causes a huge impact on a woman's body and mind due to biological and hormonal changes.

"It is in public interest that this practice be termed as pernicious and a source of introducing physical and mental trauma to women. Doctors, hospitals and institutions should also be prohibited from aiding, supporting or assisting surrogate motherhood."

The PIL cited the in-vitro fertilization (IVF) clinic at Anand and said more and more foreigners were thronging the clinic to get a child through surrogacy at a cheap price. It said, "UN-backed study in 2012 estimated the surrogacy business in India to be more than 400 million pounds a year with over 3,000 fertility clinics."

ICMR's report has identified 1,200 IVF clinics in India out of which 504 function as clinics only and the rest serve as fertility banks. But only 150 were listed with ICMR, the PIL said.


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