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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

India to introduce law requiring bond for surrogacy hopefuls

Delhi: Foreign couples planning to go to India for a surrogate baby will have to pay a bond before they can contact a surrogate mother under a new law being prepared by the Indian government.

The proposal was prompted by the case of an Australian couple who left a baby boy born to a surrogate mother behind, after taking his twin sister back to Australia in 2012.

The couple, from New South Wales, argued they already had a son, wanted a girl to "complete" their family and could not afford to raise the boy.

An ABC investigation in April found the couple was repeatedly told abandoning the boy could leave him stateless because India did not recognise surrogate children as citizens.

To avoid similar situations the Indian government wants to impose a minimum monetary bond on foreign couples so that there is enough money to raise and support any baby that might be abandoned.

The proposal is part of a wider new Assisted Reproductive Technologies Bill designed to regulate India's surrogacy industry, believed to be worth an estimated $2.3 billion.

The bill addresses issues such as compensation and the age and consent of the mother.

Department of Health Research secretary Dr Vishwa Katoch said the draft bill was close to being finalised.

"There are still a few differences among the ministries who differ on whether single-parent surrogacy can be allowed or only married couples but it's almost there and ready for Parliament to consider," he said.

According to a 2012 study by the Confederation of Indian Industry, about 10,000 foreign couples visit India to commission surrogacy and nearly 30 per cent are either unmarried or homosexual.

Another proposed change is to require foreign couples travelling to India to collect their baby to apply for a medical visa, rather than obtain entry on a tourist visa, as they do at present.

The idea of a bond does not seem viable to Hari Ramasubramanian, one of the country's few legal experts on surrogacy, since couples come to India because the process costs less there. The government has not yet decided the amount of the bond.

"The other issue is the amount. Even if it's something like $US40,000 to $50,000 [$52,000-$65,000], even for India, that isn't much because it has to cover the baby's entire lifetime till adulthood. If you add this to the cost of surrogacy, how can couples afford it?," he asked.

Mr Ramasubramanian said India would do better to enforce existing laws instead of creating new ones. He said it was a crime under Indian law to abandon a child but the government had taken no action against the Australian couple.


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