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.
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.
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)