Ivf

Monday, 16 November 2015

Wombs for cash: Surrogate mother ‘renting’ womb for £8,500 implanted with embryo created from an HIV+ father

A Mexican woman who agreed to be a surrogate mother and ‘rent’ her womb for £8,500 was implanted with an embryo created from an HIV+ father without her consent.
Alejandra Mendiola, a 36-year-old single mother of four, agreed to carry a baby made from donated sperm and eggs for an American client because she desperately needs the money.
‘I am six months pregnant and I only found out a few weeks ago that the man who is paying me to carry his child is HIV+,’ she told Channel 4’s Unreported World.
‘I am scared and unsure what is going to happen to me and my children.
‘I only did this because I wanted to secure their future – now I’m frightened for my future, and my children’s.’
Global commercial surrogacy, where a woman is paid to carry an embryo with which she shares no genetic link, is an exploding industry estimated to be worth up to £1.3 billion.
In Britain, paying for surrogacy is illegal and contracts between parents and a surrogate mother are not legally enforceable. Women who carry babies for other people can only do so altruistically, receiving only very basic expenses.
This means many British people desperate to have a family look abroad.
Until recently, Thailand and India were the top destinations for international surrogacy.

But earlier this year, the Thai government banned non-Thai and gay couples from accessing surrogacy services after an Australian couple allegedly abandoned a baby with Down’s syndrome while taking home his healthy twin sister.

'Ban on surrogacy will lead to exploitation'

BENGALURU: The Centre's move to ban commercial surrogacy and encourage only for altruistic purposes is ridiculous, says Sharmila Rudrappa, professor of sociology and Asian American Studies at the University of Texas. Sharmila, who has researched surrogacy in Benglauru extensively, told TOI that the move will only exacerbate the situation for surrogate mothers. Her book, Discounted Life: The Price of Global Surrogacy in India, will be published in December. Excerpts:

India has proposed to ban its women from being surrogates for NRI, PIO and foreign couples

This ban is certainly going to dent the earnings of surrogate mothers, but it's not going to be that large. But what's worse is the Centre is looking to ban commercial surrogacy altogether. It wants to institute only altruistic surrogacy , where no money will be exchanged. Look, the cat is out of the bag -the businesses are set, doctors have invested in equipment, networks are established. To think that you can turn the clock back and go back to altruistic surrogacy is downright ridiculous. The Centre has no interest in regulating surrogacy, and helping surrogate mothers achieve a life of dignity. Now, they are expected to gift their labour and hardship. There may be no contracts. Rich families can coerce or compel their poorer relatives, or maids to engage in "altruistic" surrogacy for them. Under these conditions, exploitation of surrogate mothers will deepen.

What led you to conduct research on surrogate mothers in India, Bengaluru specifically?

I still have a family in Bengaluru and during my visits, I was struck by the growing presence of fertility clinics all over the city. Why were there so many fertility clinics? It was right around then, in October 2007, that Oprah Winfrey had a show on surrogacy in Anand. I slowly realized that perhaps infertility and surrogacy were fascinating topics, especially given the amount of time, money and effort various governments in India had put in to control women's fertility .

Women in some rural pockets near Bengaluru are pushed into renting their wombs to earn money.

Please don't refer to surrogacy as a rental relationship. Such a perspective, i.e., that women "rent their wombs", discredits their efforts and sacrific es. Their bodies are pumped with synthetic hormones, they undergo invasive ultrasounds, they are separated from their families for months and stay in surrogacy dormitories, and finally, they are almost always cut open. The industry has a very high incidence of caesarian surgeries.

Given that these surrogate mothers have very poor postnatal care, the risks they put their bodies through are cause for worry . The women I met know that surrogacy is risky but still pursue surrogacy because life has become expensive in Bengaluru. None of the women I met was from rural areas. They were all Bengaluru residents, or came from the outskirts. And none of them was desperately poor; they came from multi-income families. They believed that the wages from surrogacy could pull them out of economic uncertainty .

Where exactly does a woman from Karnataka stand in the global reproductive labour market?


When I conducted fieldwork in Bengaluru in 2011, they received $4,000 for each pregnancy. By 2012-13, they were receiving $5,000. People might think this is very good money , but the city is expensive and it disappears very quickly.

Clarity sought on Centre’s ban on surrogacy for foreigners New directive of ICMR leaves Indians married to outsiders and NRIs in a fix

A recent notice (dated October 10) from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to leading In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) clinics in Hyderabad has become a source of anguish for the Chowdhary couple. The cause for worry is the ICMR directive to clinics that said ‘surrogacy will be limited to Indian married couples only and not to foreigners’.

“I am a person of Indian origin and my parents are from Hyderabad. I am settled in New Zealand but my father, mother and other relatives live here. What should I do now? Will the Indian government consider me a foreigner?” asks an upset Ramesh Chowdhary (first name changed on request).

The couple from New Zealand had come to Hyderabad and underwent IVF treatment in the hope of having a child. And when IVF failed, surrogacy was the only option left. The recent decision of the Union government to ban surrogacy for foreigners has put the couple and the IVF clinic in a fix, prompting the clinic management to write a letter to the ICMR seeking clarification on the classification of foreigners.

The decision to ban surrogacy among foreigners has raised some prickly questions among IVF clinics in Telangana because there is no clarity whether surrogacy facilities can be extended to Indians married to foreigners, NRIs and persons of Indian origin.

Commercialisation
Then, there are also the questions of commercialisation, involvement of third party (known as agents) and exploitation of the gullible people that have been largely left unanswered.

“I am not sure how this decision to ban surrogacy for foreigners will help. However, there is a definite need to strengthen regulatory aspects of commercialisation, involvement of agents and the threat of exploitation of families. There is also a lot of clarity needed on issuing of visas for the baby born out of surrogacy for a foreign couple,” says Dr. K. Anuradha of the Anu Test Tube Baby Centre.

Many also cite the lack of clarity on legal issues pertaining to surrogacy.

“There is no clarity of rules on surrogacy. Moreover, there is a thin line that divides altruistic and commercial surrogacy. Many couples prefer to bring their close relatives as surrogates who can bear children for them. However, not all are lucky. Such persons do try to opt the commercial way of surrogacy,” says Dr. P Praveena, Baby’s Life Hospital, Hanamkonda, Warangal.

Specialists in the sector agree to the fact that in developed countries, IVF and surrogacy are prohibitively expensive, which drives foreigners to destinations like India and Thailand.

Deep-rooted issues

However, they point out that banning surrogacy to foreigners does not necessarily address the deep-rooted issues like the health of a surrogate mother, who will take responsibility of the surrogate infant in case they have a congenital condition or an abnormality.

IVF specialists also draw attention towards family disputes related to property etc. “There is definitely two sides to the story. What if the surrogate mother after few years decides to claim the surrogate child? However, for women from poor families, it could be a good option,” says Dr. E. Kavitha Reddy, senior Gynaecologist and IMA secretary from Nizamabad.

“What is the need of the hour is to regulate third party reproduction protecting all stakeholders, not ban a technology which can help infertile couple,” said co-chairman, Nova IVI Fertility Centre, India, Dr. Manish Banker.


(With inputs from Gollapudi Srinivas Rao in Warangal and P. Ram Mohan in Nizamabad)

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Banning Surrogacy in India Will Drive It Underground

The Indian government is set to ban surrogacy for foreign couples much to the chagrin of these parenthood hopefuls, surrogate mothers and the doctors involved in the surrogacy process. The issue of surrogacy, particularly that of commercial nature, is a polarising issue across the world.
Even the developed countries stand divided on it. While many states in the US allow commercial surrogacy, France, Germany, Spain and Italy have banned all kinds of surrogacy. Some countries like the UK, Denmark and Belgium allow only altruistic surrogacy.
In the aftermath of the Indian Council of Medical Research’s recent letter to infertility specialists directing them against entertaining foreigners for surrogacy services, a strong demand for better regulations instead of a blanket ban has emerged.

While one may choose to ignore the moral strings attached to surrogacy, it is impossible to ignore the ethical issue of using the bodies of women from economically weak sections of society. It is na├»ve to assume that all surrogate mothers have a choice in the matter. As in sex work, women’s bodies are at the disposal of those who can afford to use them. Even if the complex issue of choice and agency could be resolved, women’s health opens a Pandora’s Box of contradictions.

Can We Turn Stem Cells Into Eggs?

Northwestern University biologist Jonathan Tilly is certain he’s found egg-making stem cells in adult mice. If he’s right, it would refute decades-old work that showed female mammals finish making all their eggs before or shortly after birth. This might make it possible to grow new eggs inside the ovaries of older women.

In a feature for Science last week, Jennifer Couzin-Frankel wrote about the ongoing scepticism many reproductive biologists have towards both Tilly’s work and OvaScience, the fertility-treatment company he helped found.

Tilly says he’s proven the existence of these stem cells by every method imaginable. But sceptics, and there are many, argue that he has relied chiefly on appearance and genetic markers to identify them. Most reproductive biologists insist that the cells be caught in the act of undergoing meiosis, the cell division unique to sperm and eggs in which bits of DNA are swapped between chromosomes. They also want to see that the resulting eggs can be fertilised and create offspring.
In short, before reproductive biologists are willing to agree that Tilly has found precursors of eggs, they want to see evidence that these cells actually turn into eggs.

Nevertheless, OvaScience has pressed on: it now offers their first modification of standard IVF based on the disputed research in Canada, Panama, Spain, Turkey, and Dubai. In the AUGMENT treatment, mitochondria are isolated from the putative immature egg cells and injected into a patient’s egg along with a sperm cell.


AUGMENT costs $US25,000 on top of the astronomical costs of a ‘normal’ round of IVF, and although the company claims the technique can give older eggs additional energy for early development, so far all of its successes have been in younger women. Some critics say AUGMENT’s chances of success are no different than normal IVF: if true, women using it could be doubling the price of their treatment for no good reason.

Legal experts seek new surrogacy law

Eminent legal experts and jurists have called upon Parliament to enact a new law to deal with issues concerning surrogacy and inter-country adoption.
Referring to the government’s move to bring a law on surrogacy to prohibit commercial surrogacy, the speakers said the need of the hour was to enact a comprehensive law which will also deal with problems of inter-country adoption.
The Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill, 2014 proposes to regulate and supervise surrogacy clinics, prevent misuse of ART technology, besides advocating safe and ethical practices of ART services.
The seminar was held in the capital last Friday to coincide with the release of a book, Surrogacy in India: A Law in the making — Revisited, authored by advcoates Anil and Ranjit Malhotra by Justice A.K. Sikri of the Supreme Court. The book examines this journey of surrogacy in India from 2005 to 2015. Former Attorney General Soli Sorabjee, Lord Diljit Rana, British Member of Parliament and Dr. Kavita A. Sharma, President, South Asian University, were the special invitees.
Speakers said the Bill contemplates that surrogacy shall be available to married Indian infertile couples only. It is proposed that foreigners, whether single or couples, with the exception of OCIs, NRIs, PIOs and foreigners married to Indian citizens, will be disallowed surrogacy in India. They said in reality, commercial surrogacy is in existence for the past over ten years and has become an unregulated medical tourism industry.
The speakers said inter-parental child removal from one country to another is not defined in any Indian legislation and is not specified as an offence under any statutory law.
The problem is compounded by the fact that India is not a signatory to the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, 1980, which is acceded to by 93 countries worldwide. Hence, inter-parental child custody conflicts are invariably decided by Indian Courts on the principle of the welfare of the child as a paramount consideration in the best interest of the child.

A fugitive non-resident Indian parent declared a proclaimed offender in matrimonial proceedings may not even be able to see or talk to his children removed to India. An anguished parent armed with a foreign Court order and unsuccessful in its enforcement in India, attempts to abduct his own child in an attempt to repeat what the other parent did. They wanted a uniform line of thinking to give consistency in dispensation of justice till a legislative solution emerges.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Commercial surrogacy risks exploitation of women


The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has called for comments on the proposed Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) Bill 2015 soon to be tabled in Parliament. This Bill attempts to institute governing structures for and supervision of infertility clinics. By far, the most controversial issue is this area is commercial surrogacy arrangement. In 2005, the ICMR National Guidelines for Accreditation, Supervision and Regulations of ART Clinics allowed commercial surrogacy in India. 

This inexplicable and unjustifiable decision shocked civil society and the medical fraternity, as commercial surrogacy is strictly banned in almost all countries of the world. Since then, with every scandal or tragedy involving exploitation of surrogates or abandonment of children, the image of India has been tarnished and tagged with derogatory terms like ‘rent-a-womb’ and ‘outsourcing babies’.

The main beneficiaries of these arrangements would be the clinics offering these services to well-heeled affluent clients from abroad, who are delighted with this form of medical tourism that allows surrogacy arrangements for a fraction of the cost abroad. Vocal protests by women’s groups, human rights groups and other professionals against this blatant exploitation of poor and vulnerable Indian women have been ineffective. The government has remained silent and continued to allow vested interests to dictate policy in this area.

The experience of Indian surrogate mothers is heart rending. Procured mostly from slums through agents, these women are removed from their homes and incarcerated in hostels until the surrogate child is born. Unempowered and desperate, the women undertake the risk of the additional pregnancy, clinical procedures and delivery for the monetary benefit they will bring. 

To increase the chance of success, surrogates are implanted with multiple embryos and often have to carry twins, undergo foetal reduction procedures and agree to Caesarian section for the safety of the child. The HBO documentary ‘Outsourcing Embryos’ by journalist Gianna Toboni is just one of many painful exposes on the darker side of surrogacy in India.

Children born through surrogacy are also vulnerable. If the commissioning parents change their mind and refuse the child, it is left for adoption at a state orphanage. When foreigners are involved, dissimilar country laws regarding adoption and citizenship create complications that can be unfair and detrimental to the child.

The tragic story of Baby Manji, a surrogate child born in India is still fresh in the collective mind. Abandoned in India by a Japanese couple who got divorced just before her birth, she was later claimed, with special permission, by her Japanese grandmother on the guarantee that the child would be assured Japanese citizenship.

In another shocking case in 2012, an Australian couple accepted only one of a pair of twins born through a surrogate arrangement in Delhi. They arranged to have the other child adopted by a couple in India. After this turned created international furore, Australian authorities agreed to confer citizenship on the abandoned twin if the adoption was illegal. This raises the spectre of child trafficking and commoditisation of children in the absence of adequate oversight.

In response, the ART Bill 2015 proposes that commercial surrogacy be allowed only for foreigners married to Indian citizens, overseas citizens of India (OCI), people of Indian origin (PIO) and non-resident Indians (NRI). This amendment does not fully address the issue of conflicting country laws relating to citizenship and adoption and exploitation of women.

This very year, two other Asian countries have toughened legislation in this area. Thailand has banned commercial surrogacy for foreigners and same-sex couples following a scandal involving ‘Baby Gammy’, a surrogate twin abandoned in Thailand as he had Downs syndrome, while his healthy twin sister was taken abroad.

Nepal, too, has banned all surrogacy arrangements in response to the public outcry over selective airlifting of surrogate babies in the wake of recent earthquake. The rescue was privately organised by affluent commissioning couples, unmindful of the surrogate mothers left behind. The irony of this story is that the surrogate mothers were mostly of Indian nationality, as Nepal does not allow its own citizens to enter into commercial surrogacy arrangements.

Multi-million dollar business
Surrogacy in India is now a multi-million dollar business offering the attraction of lower costs, permissive laws and availability of surrogate women. There are many who are profiteering from promoting surrogacy, for medical indications that warrant surrogacy are extremely limited. This blatant exploitation of vulnerable women in the name of medical treatment is unacceptable.

When poverty drives women to risk their mental and physical health, even using their bodies for financial return in this manner, dignity of the human being and respect for motherhood is undermined. Just as commercial organ donation was prohibited in India by the Transplantation of Human Organs Act 1994, commercial surrogacy must not be allowed, as these contracts are unconscionable, unenforceable and unethical.

Is it possible to put a price on the human body or an organ? For this reason, organ donation, blood donation and even human cadaver donation are altruistic. As in the case of organ donation, altruistic surrogacy arrangements could be allowed, with adequate regulation and oversight.

There is still a long way to go in providing protection, safety and well-being to every woman and girl child in India. Let this not be one more avenue of possible exploitation, whether by foreigners or Indians. We have the responsibility to ensure that the proposed Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill 2015 is reviewed.

The legislation must reflect this country’s commitment to human rights and children’s rights as signatories to the international charter of rights. In a country that is striving to ensure that women are included, educated, empowered and have a voice in the democratic and social arena, commercial surrogacy has no place at all.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Why has India’s government banned commercial surrogacy?

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis.

Surrogacy in India is estimated to be a $2.3 billion industry, but surrogate mothers are paid less than a tenth of what they get in the US. The mushrooming of IVF clinics, absence of a regulatory framework, and the availability of poor women willing to rent out their wombs has made India an attractive option for foreigners seeking a surrogate child. Several questions have been raised over the alleged exploitation of surrogate mothers, and over the need to safeguard their, the child’s, as well as the commissioning parents’ rights.

The Indian government will not allow commercial surrogacy that involves exchange of money for anything apart from paying for the medical expenses for the mother and child. Thus, it will allow only ‘altruistic surrogacy’ — which, officials say, could in most cases involve a close blood relative.

In an affidavit to the Supreme Court, the government now says it will henceforth “prohibit and penalise commercial surrogacy services” so as to protect the “dignity of Indian womanhood”, and to prevent “trafficking in human beings” and the “sale of surrogate child”. Only needy infertile Indian couples would be able to opt for surrogacy of the altruistic kind.

This line also excludes LGBTs, single men or women, couples in live-in relationships, as well as married couples who are proven to be fertile but choose to opt for surrogacy for reasons other than medical. The government’s view is based on the ethical stand that a child should not be the product of a transaction, and that motherhood should not be commodified

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Shah Rukh Khan opens up about surrogacy and the need to regulate the procedure


Shah Rukh Khan, who just turned 50 yesterday, had a few things to say on the recent controversy webbed around commercial surrogacy and consideration of its ban in India.
According to a leading entertainment portal, King Khan admitted his ignorance towards recent happenings due to his busy birthday schedule, when asked to comment on the controversial surrogacy bill and the developments in it. However, wise as always, the actor did make a very important point citing that the need to regulate the procedure of surrogacy in India was imperative. He said, “It should be regulated. When I was having my surrogate baby, I did a lot of study on it and realised that a lot of countries have regulated the procedure. I know the pleasure of having children and if there is any manner in which parents who are bereft of this joy are able to enjoy it, I am all for it.”

The saying that age making oneself wiser sure fits perfectly in SRK’s case. The 50 year old actor may not look old but he definitely sparks wisdom. Do you agree with us? Let us know what you think in the comments section below!

Monday, 2 November 2015

SOME YOGA A DAY TO HELP IN THE FAMILY WAY

Some yoga a day to help in the family way
Yoga should be prescribed to women having fertility treatment to help boost their chance of conception, according to experts. A study revealed doing yoga for 45 minutes a week for six weeks cut anxiety levels by 20 per cent. Being relaxed has previously been found to improve the likelihood of conceiving. Based on results found by researchers at the Fertility Centres of Illinois, experts said that yoga could also help reduce the number of couples quitting IVF because of the stress. Dr Jennifer Hirshfeld-Cytron, who led the study at the Fertility Centres of Illinois, described the findings as "exciting".


She added, "We have shown a decrease in anxiety of patients that utilised the yoga program. This is particularly exciting given that others have shown a statistical increase in anxiety for infertility patients undergoing infertility treatment. In the US, cost remains a top reason couples stop infertility treatment, but close behind remains emotional distress. We believe yoga can help to alleviate this stress and allow couples to stay in treatment."


Yoga is an ancient form of exercise that focuses on strength, flexibility and breathing to boost physical and mental wellbeing. The main components of yoga are postures and breathing. The practice originated in India around 5,000 years ago. Fertility expert Dr Stuart Lavery, from the Department of Reproductive Medicine at London's Hammersmith Hospital, described the findings as "promising". He added, "Anything that helps patients cope during a difficult and stressful time can only be good."

Thursday, 29 October 2015

India’s ‘rent-a-womb’ industry could close doors to foreigners

Soon foreign couples won’t be able to pay surrogate mothers in India to have babies for them — if the Indian government has its way.

India is one of the top countries in the world for couples searching for surrogacy that can be done far more cheaply than in the United States and elsewhere. It is a booming — and largely unregulated — business in India, with thousands of clinics forming the backbone of an estimated $400 million-a-year industry, according to a study by Sama, a New Delhi-based advocacy group for women and children.

Critics have long said that fertility clinics and their clients exploit surrogate mothers — often poor and illiterate women from rural areas who are paid little. A surrogate mother profiled in The Washington Post was paid $8,000: an amount 12 times what she made as a garment worker.

Abuses abound, however, and the practice has been derided as “rent-a-womb.” India’s Supreme Court recently labeled it “surrogacy tourism” and called for a ban.

[Scandal in Thailand ends surrogacy]

The government submitted an affidavit to the Supreme Court on Wednesday saying that it “does not support commercial surrogacy” and that “no foreigners can avail surrogacy services in India,” although the service would still be available to Indian couples.

India has been trying to pass an Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) bill since 2010, and a draft of the legislation up for public comment through Nov. 15 does not specify the ban on foreign couples. But it suggests stricter regulations on the practice, such as limiting the number of surrogate births from a mother to one.

However, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is pushing for an outright ban on allowing foreign couples to hire Indian surrogates, activists say. In 2012, the government banned single and gay people from abroad from coming to India to use surrogates.

“In meetings, officials have said foreign nationals are exploiting our women,” said Manasi Mishra, who did a survey on surrogacy for the Center for Social Research in New Delhi and has been involved in discussions on the new legislation.

“We don’t agree there should be a ban on foreign nationals coming here for surrogate babies. We have been asking for regulating the industry. The industry has grown so much. If you ban it, everything will go underground and illegal.”

[Babies as business]

India and the United States are among a handful of countries where the practice of in-vitro fertilization and embryo transfer is allowed. Thailand banned it recently. More than 6,000 surrogate babies are born in India per year, about half of them to foreign couples, according to one industry estimate.


“We are taken aback by the government’s stand against foreign nationals,” said Jagatjeet Singh, a surrogacy consultant in New Delhi. “On one hand, the government is promoting foreign investment and the medical tourism industry. And on the other, they are talking of banning foreign nationals from coming to India for surrogate babies. There are dual standards."

Monday, 26 October 2015

ART Bill may close doors to surrogacy for foreigners

With the Centre’s proposed Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) Bill likely to be tabled in the winter session of Parliament, foreigners and those not included in the “couple” category may be unable to avail the services of an Indian surrogate.
Simply put, the Bill narrows the services to Indian couples or a foreigner married to an Indian citizen. This will put the brakes on the surrogacy business, which currently stands at Rs. 900 crore and is a growing industry.
Also, by defining a couple as a married man and woman, the proposed Bill shuts the door on homosexuals and people in live-in relationships.
“Surrogacy is a method of assisted reproduction. The Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) industry has evolved into a multi-billion rupee industry. India is internationally known as a booming centre of a fertility market. The industry is growing fast because of cutting-edge technology, trained medical staff, availability of rented wombs, and the fact that it offers very competitive pricing,” said Dr. Rita Bakshi, a member of the Indian Society of Third Party Assisted Reproduction (INSTAR).
India is among a handful of countries — which includes Georgia, Russia, Thailand, Ukraine and a few States in the US — where women can be paid to carry a couple’s genetic child through a process of in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) and embryo transfer.
Dr. Bakshi added that if the Bill comes into force, fertility tourism in India will slip to the back seat.
“At present, close to 20 per cent of the intended parents seeking surrogates in India are foreigners. The Indian surrogacy market is pegged to be around Rs. 900 crore. According to a 2012 study by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), around 10,000 foreign couples visit India to commission surrogacy,” said Dr. Bakshi.
According to fertility experts, “transparency, ethical guidelines, regulated environment and enhanced clinical practice are the need of the hour”. They say that the business, driven by sound medical facilities, is based on simple economics.
Mr. Vivek Kohli, who runs Baby Joy IVF Centre, says the proposed Bill will lead to discrimination among Indian and foreigners and directly affect medical tourism in India.
“These days India has become the hub of medical tourism. People travel from across the world for medical treatment. If organ transplant is fine, then why this double standard for surrogacy?” Mr. Kohli asks.
However, some people have come out in support of the proposed Bill. Dr. (Brig) R.K Sharma, HOD at IVF Primus Super Speciality Hospital said: “We are fortunate that we are in this noble work where we can provide the joy of parenthood to people not only from our own country, but from people all around the world. But, indirectly it creates a negative impact about our country that our women are so poor that they rent there womb for survival. If this is banned, it would be beneficial for our image.”
Many legal experts also feel that it is “poverty, illiteracy and the lack of power that women have over their own bodies”, which is the driving force behind the surrogacy market.
Women rights groups, too, believe that the draft Bill is a step in the right direction as it will end the present confusion and help regulate the functioning of IVF centres, besides ensuring quality checks and accountability of ART clinics.
“It will also be a step forward in protecting the interest and health of the surrogate mother,” says the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA).
Dr. Richa Sharma of INSTAR, meanwhile, said that what the industry needed was a strong regulation “to streamline the ART process and stop unethical practices being carried out”.
“Often we have heard episodes of harvesting of multiple oocytes for egg extraction, implantation of multiple embryos, and the practice of embryo donation or sharing. All of these require women to undergo hormonal interventions. It is exploitation that needs to be stopped, not services,” she said.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Families lose hope as Australian babies born via surrogacy remain stuck in Nepal

Australian families stuck for weeks in Nepal after the country changed its stance on surrogacy are at "breaking point", unsure if they will be allowed home with their babies.
"There's a sense of desperation, a sense of complete despair," said one father, Nick Martin*. Families are running out of vital supplies for their newborns; Mr Martin has had to rely on "complete strangers" flying to Nepal from Australia, contacted through social media, to deliver formula for his seven-week-old twins.  
Dozens of Australians began the surrogacy process when it was legal in Nepal. But on August 25 the Supreme Court suspended commercial surrogacy, without directing what should happen to babies already conceived or born. Nepali officials have interpreted the order as applying retrospectively and will not issue exit visas for the children.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the status of surrogacy arrangements commissioned in Nepal before the ban remained unclear, despite attempts by the Australian government to clarify them.
"We will continue to encourage the Government of Nepal to put arrangements in place as soon as possible, allowing for the departure of Australian citizens," she said. "However, there are limits to what the Australian Government can do to influence the laws of a foreign country."
Mr Martin said up to 15 babies with Australian passports were "virtually prisoners" in Kathmandu. Families from the United States, United Kingdom, Israel, Ireland, Brazil and Serbia were also in limbo, and "for all involved they are at breaking point".
"What we parents are seeking is international awareness and pressure on the Nepal Government to allow these innocent babies to leave Nepal," he said. "This is not a political or surrogacy debate, it is a humanitarian issue for these children."
Health problems forced Lisa McDonald* to return home without her baby son, leaving him in Kathmandu with her husband. She said with no resolution in sight, families felt abandoned and were losing hope.
"We're just average people who had the audacity to want a baby," she said.
Nepal is still recovering from devastating earthquakes and is in a state of unrest, with key government ministers resigning after a new constitution was adopted and violent protests disrupting the supply of food, fuel and other essentials from India.
"The new government is dealing with so many other pressing issues … these little Australians are way down their list," Mr Martin said. "Will the Australian government not go in to bat for its citizens?"
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's Smartraveller website advises that the Nepali Department of Immigration will not issue exit permits until written clarification is received from the Ministry of Health and Population and "we do not know how long this will take".
"International commercial surrogacy is a complex area which raises significant legal and social considerations and is illegal in many jurisdictions, including some Australian states and territories," a DFAT spokesman said.
"Smartraveller advice has consistently strongly cautioned Australians to consider all legal and other risks involved in pursuing international surrogacy, and recommends that commissioning parents not consider surrogacy in Nepal."

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Foreigners may no longer hire wombs in India

Foreign national couples may no longer be able to choose India as their destination to bring them the joy of parenthood. The government, in its newly-drafted Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) (Regulation) Bill, 2014, has proposed to bar foreigners from commissioning surrogacy in India.

Instead, the government has proposed allowing surrogacy only to couples who live together legally as per the Indian Consititution — Overseas Citizens of India (OCI), People of Indian origin (PIO), Non-Resident Indian’s (NRIs) and a foreigner married to an Indian citizen.

Contrary to the recommendation of the Women and Child Development (WCD) ministry, which had earlier proposed the health ministry to widen the definition of “couples by allowing surrogacy to everyone who wants to avail ARTs and surrogacy, irrespective of marriage”, the new draft remains quiet on live-in relationships, unmarried couples and single parents.

According to the draft, being put up for suggestions and comments by the Department of Health Research under the Union health ministry, OCIs, PIOs and foreigner married to an Indian citizen, commissioning surrogacy in India shall be married and the marriage should have sustained at least for two years.

They will have to submit a certificate conveying that the woman is unable to conceive their own child and the certificate shall be attested by the appropriate government authority of that country.

Those seeking surrogacy will also have to appoint a local guardian who shall be legally responsible for taking care of the surrogate during and after the pregnancy etc.

As per the draft if OCI, PIO and a foreigner married to an Indian citizen seeks sperm or egg donation, or surrogacy in India, and a child or children are born as a consequence, the child or children, even though born in India, shall not be an Indian citizen but shall be entitled to Overseas Citizenship of India under Section 7A of the Citizenship Act, 1955.

The draft also proposed that only Indian citizens shall have a right to act as a surrogate, and no assisted reproductive technology bank or assisted reproductive technology clinic shall receive or send an Indian woman for surrogacy abroad. The draft also states that no ART procedure shall be performed on a man and a woman below the age of 23 years and above the age of fifty years in case of women and 55 years in case of men.

According to the new draft, surrogate mother shall be an ever married Indian woman with minimum 23 years of age and shall have at least one live child of her own with minimum age of three years. “No woman shall act as a surrogate for more than one successful live birth in her life and with not less than two years interval between two deliveries. The surrogate mother shall be subjected to maximum three cycles of medications while she is acting as surrogate mother,”says the draft copy.

In the event that the man intending to act as sperm donor is married, the consent of his spouse shall be required before he may act as sperm donor, it adds.


The draft makes it mandatory for all those commissioning couple including OCI,PIO, NRIs and foreigner married to an Indian citizen who have availed of the services of a surrogate to accept the custody of the child or children irrespective of any abnormality that the child or children may have. “Commissioning couple shall submit a certificate indicating that the child/children born in India through surrogacy is/are genetically linked to them and they will not involve the child/children in any kind of pornography or paedophilia,” it further says.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Australian babies and embryos in legal limbo in Nepal as commercial surrogacy clinics shut down

          
ELEANOR HALL: Dozens of Australian parents are accusing the Nepalese government of holding their surrogate babies "hostage", following a court decision that outlawed commercial surrogacy services.
More Australians seeking surrogacy services have been travelling to Nepal since the Indian and Thai authorities cracked down on commercial surrogacy last year.
But a recent decision by the Nepalese Supreme Court has left parents of babies already born or awaiting birth unable to obtain visas to bring their babies back to Australia.
Nick Grimm reports.
NICK GRIMM: For those directly involved, they're sometimes called "family formation journeys". They're the long odysseys on which infertile and same-sex couples will embark, with the goal of transforming their relationship from a partnership to a family.
But in the wake of controversies like Thailand's baby gammy scandal, commercial surrogacy services have themselves been on the move, seeking sympathetic jurisdictions willing to enable prospective parents to take home a baby - which is at least, in part, biologically their own.
After doors closed on Australian couples in India and Thailand, Nepal had been the latest port of call for commercial surrogacy.
After stumping up an estimated $40,000 for the chance to have their child carried by a surrogate mother, parents have been caught in a legal limbo, as a result of a Nepalese supreme court decision that has invalidated the process.
The ruling has left parents unable to obtain the necessary visas allowing them to bring their newborn babies home.
ROBERT REITH: Our best guess is about a dozen, but we're concerned that there could be a number more who, you know, have made no representation to us or even to the local DFAT authorities.
NICK GRIMM: Robert Reith from Surrogacy Australia says other prospective parents are also facing obstacles leaving Nepal with their frozen embryos - regardless of whether they can find a third destination where a surrogate birth can be arranged.
ROBERT REITH: At the moment, the government has put a ban on all export visas, export as in allowing people to take their child, even though its completely genetically theirs, to get a travel visa out of the country.
Now we understand the supreme court will be meeting today or tomorrow to try and get a resolution to this, but even still, it may only help a few couples. There are many couples over there who have perhaps not a surrogate at the moment, but they have eggs, embryos, in clinics in Nepal. So the issue for us is not only getting the babies back home that are already alive and just waiting in limbo, but also for all those other people who have got embryos, frozen embryos, you know, hoping to use a surrogate in one of those countries.
NICK GRIMM: The growing number of Australian couples caught in limbo adds to those already mired in red tape as a result of India's decision to ban commercial surrogacy arrangements there.
ROBERT REITH: DFAT and I have got an account together, we put together some numbers and it looks like we've got about 22 couples who are affected at the moment in India.
NICK GRIMM: Sam Everingham is the father of two girls born via a surrogacy arrangement, and founder of Surrogacy Australia.
He's since become the director of Families Through Surrogacy. The organisation has been providing advice and support for many of the Australian parents whose babies are now in a legal limbo in Nepal.
SAM EVERINGHAM: It's tough. I mean all these couples are highly stressed because they're obviously in a foreign country with newborn babies, and there for many more weeks than they expected to be there for.
Often, you know, there having to have time off work for many more weeks than they've scheduled for. The future is a bit uncertain as to when they'll be able to bring those children back to Australia. So look, it's a nerve-wracking time for many of those couples now, while Nepal goes through a process of deciding what it is and isn't lawful.
NICK GRIMM: In the wake of the court decision in Nepal, some commercial surrogacy clinics are now believed to be re-establishing their operations in Cambodia - one of the jurisdiction's where laws governing the practice are at best vague, or non-existent.
Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade says it can't comment on individual cases for privacy reasons, but in a statement provided to The World Today, DFAT acknowledges it's aware of a number of cases involving Australians in Nepal with children already born.
STATEMENT FROM DFAT (voiceover): The Australian Government has made, and continues to make, representations to the government of Nepal to address the issue of those families who already have children born in Nepal, and those with children currently in gestation. We all want a solution that is humane and considers the best interests of the children, birth mothers and families.
NICK GRIMM: DFAT has been advising Australians against engaging in surrogacy in Nepal since February this year, and the status of commercial surrogacy arrangements undertaken prior to the ruling by the Nepalese supreme court in August remains unclear.
Sam Everingham again.
SAM EVERINGHAM: The Nepalese government isn't very well resourced in this area at the moment. They are doing what they can to try and address what they say at the moment, but it's obviously a government which hasn't got the manpower a developed country has, and they're really stretched to try and deal with this in a thorough and mature way, and in a way which protects the interests of surrogates, the children and the parents.


ELEANOR HALL: That's Sam Everingham from Families Through Surrogacy ending that report from Nick Grimm.

Friday, 25 September 2015

US IVF clinics help Aussie parents select their baby’s gender


About one out of five couples who come to HRC Fertility, a network of fertility clinics in southern California, doesn’t need help getting pregnant. Instead, they come for what is called family balancing, or non-medical sex selection.
According to the network’s medical director, Daniel Potter, these couples usually have one, two or three children and want in-vitro fertilisation to guarantee a child of the other sex.
In Australia, couples under­going IVF treatment do not have the right to choose their unborn child’s sex but in the US they do, and Potter sees 15 to 20 visiting Australian couples every month.
“Typically it’s women wanting to have a daughter, that’s 80 per cent of what we do,” he says.
“Since they were little, the child modelling parenting behaviour has created an entity that for them is usually a daughter. For many women, they have projected the future with that entity: taking her to ballet class, walking down the aisle, that kind of thing. When they have two boys, and they find out they’re pregnant for the third time and (it’s another) boy, (if) they’re crying it’s not because they … resent that son, they’re crying to mourn the loss of that entity they’ve had their whole life.”
Non-medical sex selection is a controversial practice legal in only a few countries, including the US and Mexico. It involves the same technology used to screen for genetic diseases, pre-implantation genetic testing, and even though safety concerns have been addressed, the broader ethical questions remain. In Australia, the National Health and Medical Research Council has floated those ethical questions again as part of a rewrite of guidelines for clinicians and researchers on the use of assisted reproductive technology.
Even in the US, these ethical questions have engendered a mixed response. In June the American Society for Reproductive Medicine issued a position paper saying practitioners are under “no ethical obligation to provide or refuse to provide non-medically indicated methods of sex selection”. But the ethics committee of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reaffirmed last year a committee opinion opposing the practice of sex selection for personal and family reasons.
“We don’t want people to use technology that’s really intended to help couples with medical needs for non-medical reasons,” says Sigal Klipstein, head of the ACOG ethics committee. She says IVF is considered a very safe procedure, but as with any medical procedure there is a low risk of bleeding and infection, as well as overstimulation of the ovaries.
Potter says about half the patients he sees for non-medical sex selection come from abroad. He was recently in Australia for reunions with about 60 families he helped to select their children’s sex, including the Kanavans from Victoria.
Katie Kanavan, 33, travelled from her home in Melbourne to Potter’s clinic twice to undergo IVF/PGD. She already had three boys, all conceived naturally. She and her husband, Stuart, wanted to ensure their next child was a girl and had no such guarantee in Australia. “We wanted to give our boys a sister and we wanted to have a daughter as well,” she says.
The Kanavans spent about $US50,000 on two cycles of IVF/PGD and travel expenses. “It was a pretty big gamble for our family,” Katie Kanavan says. “We saved a lot. We did take money out on our mortgage.” They now have a girl, Ruby-Rose, 2. “We’ve completed our family,” Kanavan says. “I’d do it in a heartbeat again.”
Family balancing should be allowed locally, says David Molloy, chairman of the IVF Directors group in Australia. But it could not be publicly funded, given the range of views on such issues. While well-off parents were paying big money to travel to the US, others were trying unconventional and unproven methods at home, such as “intercourse timing, douching (or) powdered bulls’ testicles”.
“Given there’s a whole heap of unauthorised gender selection happening in bedrooms around Australia, I think it’s reasonable to allow scientific gender selection that actually does work,” Molloy says. He says patients frequently ask about the possibility of choosing their baby’s sex.
Michael Chapman, vice-president of the Fertility Society of Australia, acknowledges that most people may oppose the concept but says about 60 per cent of IVF patients want the option. He considers that reasonable, given how emotionally and financially invested they had to be in IVF.
The NHMRC’s Australian Health Ethics Committee, which produced the draft guidelines, suggests the public debate “would be enhanced through the exploration of some of the complex ethical and social issues raised by non-medical sex selection, through the use of illustrative case studies”.
Those case studies extend beyond family balancing to the replacement of a deceased child and borderline medical reasons, such as where a couple has a boy with autism and believes there would be less chance of their second child having autism if it were a girl.
Arthur Caplan, ethics director at New York University’s medical school, says family balancing can become a smokescreen for families that want boys: “When you are treating the fertile in order to produce something that they prefer as opposed to a disease, I do think you’re really opening the door to a potential slope toward eugenics.”
Potter says although there have been cases of couples wanting a child capable of providing bone marrow to a sick sibling, they were rare.
Sometimes family balancing is sought in second marriages, where a couple wants only one child and there are children from previous relationships, but mothers wanting daughters is the most common cause.
Potter says the Australian women he sees do not have firm views on whether the ethical guidelines should change, instead arriving just “happy and very appreciative that we are there to provide the service to them”.
Like Molloy, he believes that if there is no public funding involved, opposition to sex selection will fade away.
David Kaufman, a program director at the US National Human Genome Research Institute, doesn’t expect a trend to emerge for designer babies. Unlike sex selection, genetic testing of embryos for other traits is much more complicated because most of them are governed by multiple genes. “In most cases we don’t even know all the genes and even if we did you’re pretty unlikely to produce an embryo with the perfect combination of all those genes,” he says.
Potter says every case is different and the couples he helped all had their own, sometimes deeply emotional, reasons for wanting to choose a boy or a girl.
“These are not monsters, these are normal loving families who would like to have a gender represented in their family that currently isn’t,” he says.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Womb on hire

On August 25, Neoal's Supreme Court (SC) issued an interim order to close down surrogacy services in the country until the government brings in laws to oversee the issue.
The SC decision came after a writ petition was filed at the court demanding that surrogacy be deemed illegal until Nepal formulates laws on it.
In addition, the petition also mentioned that  surrogate mothers are being financially exploited for their services—the clients are charged up to 10 million rupees (US$94,700) for the complete procedure by the agencies that make all the arrangements, out of which 4 million rupees goes to the hospital and the surrogate mother only receives 300,000-400,000 rupees. 
Surrogacy is a procedure through which a woman bears and gives birth to a child for another couple or person.
If the woman is paid for her services, it is called commercial surrogacy.
Even though commercial surrogacy is allowed in a few Western countries such as the US, it is strictly regulated and is very expensive—it could cost up to $150,000. But it is much cheaper in Asia, particularly in Thailand and India.
Therefore, it attracts huge numbers of foreign clients. Yet, surrogacy has its share of problems.
Last year, an Australian couple were accused of leaving a twin boy with his Thai surrogate mother after discovering that he had Down Syndrome.
After much debate on the issue, in February, the Thai parliament introduced a new law banning all foreign and same-sex couples from seeking surrogacy services in the country.
From now on, surrogate mothers must be Thai and above 25 and no fees will be allowed for the service, which is only available to married heterosexuals with at least one Thai partner.
Here, on the contrary, a year ago, the Nepali Cabinet decided to open the doors for foreign couples to seek surrogacy services.
While the recent Supreme Court order bans it, the government definitely needs to do a lot of homework if it wants to permit surrogacy in Nepal.
To that end, it could begin by studying the surrogacy laws in Thailand. It should also study the related law in India where the government is currently seeking to introduce stricter measures through the Assisted Reproductive Technique Bill pending in the Indian parliament.
Until the government comes up with a new law, the Ministry of Health and Population needs to keep a close watch on possible violations of the ban.
As for the impending law, it must be formulated only after holding consultations with women rights activists and health professionals.
The law should be written by keeping the surrogate mother’s best interests at heart as it is she will bear all the risks.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Give Surrogate Moms their Due Respect, Says this Film by Doctors

25-year-old, Sumi, belonging to an underprivileged family, who gives tuitions to eke out a living, wants to raise money for her widowed sister’s six-year-old daughter’s heart surgery. Finding no other way, out of sheer desperation, she responds to an advertisement in a paper where an affluent lawyer is looking for a surrogate mother.
This is the plot of Bhaswati Roy’s film which has turned the spotlight on surrogacy. It was introduced in India about a decade ago. For a decade, 35-year old History professor, Bhaswati Roy had cherished a dream to make a film on a socially relevant issue. She attended a range of workshops on film-making, developed her script, organised funds and finally began shooting a year and a half ago. Her Bengali film, Shunyo Je Kol (The Empty Lap) will be released next month.
A Film on Surrogacy
Not much is still known about surrogacy and neither Sumi nor the lawyer are initially aware that a surrogate mother must be married and have at least one child.
Nevertheless, the protagonist becomes the surrogate mother. She receives Rs 5 lakhs but she pays a heavy price for it. Her boyfriend severs ties, society rejects her and her tuitions are discontinued. Once the baby is born and she has to hand him over to the lawyer and his wife, she feels the heart-wrenching pain of separation.

Dr Rajesh Das, who is Bhaswati’s husband, and four of his friends, from Calcutta Medical College, who have a passionate interest in theatre, agreed to act in her debut film.
Treatment of female infertility through IUI (intra uterine insemination) and IVF (in-vitro fertilisation) have already proven their effectiveness. But when a woman is infertile due to a congenital or acquired defect or her uterus is unable to carry the baby through the full term, then surrogacy is the only answer to get a genetically linked biological baby by hiring a non-defective uterus, the resting and growing place of the embryo.
— Dr Rajesh Das, Actor and husband of Bhaswati Roy

Source: http://www.thequint.com

Monday, 7 September 2015

Embryo freezing and surrogacy

In-vitro fertilisation (IVF) legislation is being reviewed at inter-ministerial level in the light of EU law and some recent judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. Proposals made include introducing the freezing of embryos and permitting surrogate motherhood, while banning commercial surrogacy.
How does one formulate a clear, rational, principled line of thought on both issues? Perhaps a unifying element is sacredness – the sacredness of human life starting with the moment of conception, and the sacredness of the mother’s womb. By ‘sacred’ we mean either a reality sanctified by its relation to God or something held to be of supreme value and inviolable.
Regarding the sacredness of human life, science has clearly established that human life starts at the moment of conception. Precisely then a new, separate human life begins, as yet fully dependent on the mother, but already with a genetic identity different from that of the mother.
So embryo freezing necessarily involves placing a human being not in its mother’s womb, where it naturally belongs, but in ‘lunar’ conditions, lacking warmth in every sense. By contrast, the freezing of the unfertilised ovum, which Malta’s Embryo Protection Act allows, does not involve a human being.
It is true that when embryos are frozen, the adults involved could retrieve them later without the need to go through the treatment cycle again. But to achieve this, the embryo, a human being, will have been sacrificed, sometimes even for years, waiting to be retrieved.
Although scientists are proud of their success in implanting formerly frozen embryos and bringing them to term, there is still a dearth of available knowledge as to the long-term effects on people born this way. This alone raises ethical questions about the freezing of embryos.
Furthermore, where embryos are frozen, many are never claimed by the couple involved and subse­quently ‘discarded’. In other words, tiny human beings are not accorded the protection their human dignity calls for, and are effectively killed.
In IVF issues, one may ethically not concentrate exclusively on the adults’ interest in obtaining the best success rate, preferring embryo freezing as best medical practice. This places adults’ concerns squarely above those of the tiny human being conceived, totally disregarding the voiceless embryo.
The other element is the sacred­ness of the womb. On the proposal to introduce surrogate motherhood, Archbishop Charles Scicluna tweeted: “We res­pect a woman’s womb as quasi sac­red. Let us not turn it into another commodity, whether for free or for money.”
Surrogacy, like every pregnancy, involves a close bonding between the mother who lends/leases her womb and the child she carries. The surrogate mother’s womb is infinitely more than a transient container or a temporary resting place for the child. Apart from legal complications and ethical consi­derations, there will surely be emotional trauma and psycho­logical suffering for the mother who after delivery has to give up the child with whom she has bonded.
From the child’s viewpoint it is un­clear how surrogacy affects the per­son’s sense of identity. Just as the child’s conception would not have taken place in the parents’ warm em­brace, so the months of gesta­tion would mean bonding with a woman who will not bring him/her up. So surrogacy is harmful to the mother and the child, even given the best medical assistance and even if there were no commercialisation at all – a big ‘if’, as reality has shown.
The sacredness of the womb therefore implies, in practice, that the womb that carries the child should, in the interests of both mother and child, only be that of the mother of the child.

Believers will easily see the religious sacredness of human life and of the fleshly sanctuary in which it is nurtured for the first few months. Others, however, will also appreciate the inviolability of human life, starting at conception, and why a woman’s womb should be treated as sacred.http://www.surrogacyindiadelhi.com/surrogacy-programs-in-india/

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Embryo freezing and surrogacy

In-vitro fertilisation (IVF) legislation is being reviewed at inter-ministerial level in the light of EU law and some recent judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. Proposals made include introducing the freezing of embryos and permitting surrogate motherhood, while banning commercial surrogacy.
How does one formulate a clear, rational, principled line of thought on both issues? Perhaps a unifying element is sacredness – the sacredness of human life starting with the moment of conception, and the sacredness of the mother’s womb. By ‘sacred’ we mean either a reality sanctified by its relation to God or something held to be of supreme value and inviolable.
Regarding the sacredness of human life, science has clearly established that human life starts at the moment of conception. Precisely then a new, separate human life begins, as yet fully dependent on the mother, but already with a genetic identity different from that of the mother.
So embryo freezing necessarily involves placing a human being not in its mother’s womb, where it naturally belongs, but in ‘lunar’ conditions, lacking warmth in every sense. By contrast, the freezing of the unfertilised ovum, which Malta’s Embryo Protection Act allows, does not involve a human being.
It is true that when embryos are frozen, the adults involved could retrieve them later without the need to go through the treatment cycle again. But to achieve this, the embryo, a human being, will have been sacrificed, sometimes even for years, waiting to be retrieved.
Although scientists are proud of their success in implanting formerly frozen embryos and bringing them to term, there is still a dearth of available knowledge as to the long-term effects on people born this way. This alone raises ethical questions about the freezing of embryos.
Furthermore, where embryos are frozen, many are never claimed by the couple involved and subse­quently ‘discarded’. In other words, tiny human beings are not accorded the protection their human dignity calls for, and are effectively killed.
In IVF issues, one may ethically not concentrate exclusively on the adults’ interest in obtaining the best success rate, preferring embryo freezing as best medical practice. This places adults’ concerns squarely above those of the tiny human being conceived, totally disregarding the voiceless embryo.
The other element is the sacred­ness of the womb. On the proposal to introduce surrogate motherhood, Archbishop Charles Scicluna tweeted: “We res­pect a woman’s womb as quasi sac­red. Let us not turn it into another commodity, whether for free or for money.”
Surrogacy, like every pregnancy, involves a close bonding between the mother who lends/leases her womb and the child she carries. The surrogate mother’s womb is infinitely more than a transient container or a temporary resting place for the child. Apart from legal complications and ethical consi­derations, there will surely be emotional trauma and psycho­logical suffering for the mother who after delivery has to give up the child with whom she has bonded.
From the child’s viewpoint it is un­clear how surrogacy affects the per­son’s sense of identity. Just as the child’s conception would not have taken place in the parents’ warm em­brace, so the months of gesta­tion would mean bonding with a woman who will not bring him/her up. So surrogacy is harmful to the mother and the child, even given the best medical assistance and even if there were no commercialisation at all – a big ‘if’, as reality has shown.
The sacredness of the womb therefore implies, in practice, that the womb that carries the child should, in the interests of both mother and child, only be that of the mother of the child.
Believers will easily see the religious sacredness of human life and of the fleshly sanctuary in which it is nurtured for the first few months. Others, however, will also appreciate the inviolability of human life, starting at conception, and why a woman’s womb should be treated as sacred.

National commission looking at surrogacy and parenthood

A national commission is currently studying whether there should be a law to regulate surrogacy in the Netherlands.

National commission on parenthood
In 2014 the government set up a national commission to review parenthood. It will also investigate whether surrogacy should be regulated by law in the Netherlands. They will look at questions like:

How is surrogacy assessed, especially in relation to the interests of the child?
How is surrogacy regulated in other countries?

The national commission has been asked to present its findings before 1 May 2016.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

One woman's 14-year battle with infertility has led to couples unable to have children now being able to start a family using surrogacy - without one of the partners having to give eggs or sperm to the birth mother.

In the first-of-its-kind case, a Cape Town woman successfully challenged a provision of the Children's Act of 2005 that allows surrogacy only when at least one of the commissioning parents contributes an egg or sperm.
The Pretoria High Court on Wednesday struck down the genetic-link requirement in surrogacy, declaring it unconstitutional.
Judge Anneli Basson said the case raised "difficult legal and ethical questions. [The dispute] raises complex and emotional issues that have a fundamental effect on many individuals who struggle with the devastating effects of infertility."
She said the genetic-link requirement violated human rights on a "very personal and intimate level. It effectively puts persons' personal lives and family building plans on hold. This situation begs immediate relief."
The case was brought against Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini, who opposed the application but failed to present evidence to the court in time.
The Surrogacy Advisory Group, which assisted the woman in her court action, will ask the Constitutional Court to confirm the High Court order. The woman, whose identity is protected by court order, had a "permanent and irreversible" condition which prevented her from becoming pregnant. Since 2001 the 56-year-old has undergone 18 in vitro fertilisation procedures and has had two miscarriages. With little hope, she pursued the surrogacy option.
She said she was "shocked, saddened and baffled" when she discovered that she could not use surrogacy to have a child.
She claimed the requirement of a genetic link violated a number of her constitutional rights, including those related to equality and human dignity.
Yesterday experts welcomed the judgment, saying it would lead to more people applying for surrogacy agreements.
Pretoria attorney Adele van der Walt said she often dealt with similar matters and had foreign clients who faced this problem.
"This is opening up possibilities for people and creating opportunities for parents," Van der Walt said.
Johannesburg attorney Megan Harrington-Johnson said the judgment could be good news for couples denied children because of the bureaucracy inseparable from adoption.
"If this is confirmed by the Constitutional Court, there will now be very many more applications for surrogacy agreements. This is because there is so much red tape involved in adopting a child and so infertile couples may elect to take this route instead."
Surrogacy Advisory Group chief adviser Robynne Friedman said she sees three or four cases a month similar to that of the Cape Town woman and has had to turn infertile couples away.


"A woman who lost her husband wanted to have a sibling for her child but she was infertile. I have had gay couples who have abandoned the process. Surrogacy is a wonderful gift that a woman can give another couple that cannot carry a pregnancy."

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Couple's Legal Battle in Thailand Highlights Surrogacy, Gay Rights


BANGKOK—It’s been half a year since Baby Carmen was born in Thailand, but aside from the pictures, everything else remains fuzzy.

For biological father Gordon Lake and his partner, Manuel Santos, what started as a legal agreement to have a surrogate baby has evolved into a custody battle.

But one thing remains clear to the American-born Lake.

“Carmen is a U.S. citizen," he said. "She’s biologically my daughter. That’s been proven with a DNA test. The embassy has issued a CRBA, a consular report birth abroad, which certifies her as a U.S. citizen.”

Thailand’s commercial surrogacy industry made headlines last year when a newborn with Down syndrome was left behind by an Australian couple, while they took his healthy twin sister.

Following the negative exposure, the government banned commercial surrogacy. The law came into effect in July.

But the surrogate mother said she wasn’t aware of one fact about the couple.

“If they were a mother and father like a normal parents under Thai culture, I would have no problem being a surrogate for them," said the surrogate, Patida Kusongsang. "If I had known they were a gay couple, I would not have done this for them, because in Thai culture we don't have this kind of status."

The case has been highlighted on Thai social media, with many people offering support to the fathers as the legal case progresses.

“We were invited to petition for our parental rights under Section 56 of the new law, which is a temporary provision that effectively takes the rights away from the surrogate mother and gives the parental right to the intended parents, because that's what was supposed to happen," Lake said. "So in principle, the law has a temporary provision that should help us.”

With a court date set for October, the case could become a key legal test for surrogacy and gay rights in Thailand.