A BRITISH father whose children were born to surrogate women in India has described the country’s move to ban the practice for foreign couples as a “nightmare”.
India’s government made the shock announcement last Wednesday (28) in an affidavit to the supreme court, saying it did not support commercial surrogacy and foreigners would be stopped from using the service.
The news comes as prime minister David Cameron said he was looking to speed up the adoption process for UK families.
Bobby Bains and his wife Nikki spent their life savings on fertility treatment when, seven years ago, they made the journey to a clinic in Mumbai after five failed IVF attempts and a fruitless search for an Asian egg donor in the UK.
After the birth of their daughter Daisy, they returned two years later to have a second child through another surrogate mother who gave birth to their son, Dhillon.
The couple, whose children are now seven and five, run their own surrogacy advice website linked to a clinic in Mumbai to help couples who experience infertility.
India, which has been dubbed the surrogacy capital of the world, and has benefited from the booming industry, has now said that only Indian couples will be able to avail of the service.
Bains told Eastern Eye there was growing concern among British couples who were going through the process in India about the implications of the new proposal.
“It’s a nightmare. You can imagine, you spend all this money and all of a sudden you have a baby but you can’t do anything,” Bains said.
“You thought you had light at the end of the tunnel. It’s very frustrating unless you have deep pockets. “It’s early days. One couple asked me a lot of questions. I had to put them to the Indian lawyer who said it shouldn’t affect anyone in retrospect; with cases that are currently ongoing, they should be fine.
“You might need an extra piece of paperwork to show that the surrogacy began before the threshold.”
The Indian government has said it would require some time to put the law in place but has not given any indication of timelines. Bains said the measure would drive the practice of surrogacy underground, with those desperate for a child resorting to the unregulated black market.
It is a sentiment echoed by Ranjana Kumari, director of the Centre for Social Research. She said: “Banning commercial surrogacy will send some couples onto the black market and deprive other couples of the chance of children.
“Our research shows that many surrogate mothers do not have health insurance and are paid poorly, among other issues.”
She insisted that stronger regulation, rather than an outright ban, was required. SCORES of childless foreign couples have flocked to India from across the globe in recent years, as they look for an affordable, legal and simple route to parenthood.
Health industry estimates put the size of India’s surrogacy business at `9 billion (£89 million) and growing at 20 per cent a year. Critics believe the lack of legislation encourages “rent-a-womb” exploitation of young, poor Indian women.
Bains said: “It provides a whole host of people with jobs – the hotel industry, taxis, restaurants; why they have to ban it, I don’t know. It’s available to Indians in India but not foreigners, it’s crazy.
“(India’s prime minister Narendra) Modi should know how much the industry is worth particularly in Gujarat. He should veto it [the proposal].”
Surrogacy in India costs around £20,000 of which around £5,000 goes to the surrogate mother. Bains said his agency had advised several couples who were looking to fly to Nepal, which recently put surrogacy on hold, but is due to revoke the process imminently.
India, with affordable technology, skilled doctors and a steady supply of local surrogates, is one of relatively few countries where women can be paid to carry another’s child.
Surrogacy for profit is illegal in many other countries. The process, which usually involves invitro fertilisation and embryo transfer, has led to a rise in fertility centres offering such services.
In the UK, couples are required to pay expenses to surrogate mothers, but the system is also riddled with difficulties. The Bains’ initially signed up with two agencies in England but found a surrogate who tried to convince them to give her a large sum of money, without the knowledge of the agency.
The couple pulled out before a second potential surrogate changed her mind when she heard the couple weren’t white.
The Indian government has been consulting women’s groups and the health industry on a draft bill, the Assisted Reproductive Technology act, that seeks to regulate the industry.
Indian clinic owners have denied the illtreatment of surrogate mothers, saying it is in their interests to treat the women well so they produce healthy babies.
Dr Nayana Patel, one of India’s leading fertility specialists, said the move discriminated against foreigners who were also desperate to have children.
“Yes, there need to be strict checks and counter-checks but banning foreigners is not the answer. It’s inhuman,” she said.
“There is no exploitation. It’s a voluntary contract between human beings involving an exchange of money. What’s wrong with that? It’s a dignified earning.
Instead of women working as maids, they can be surrogates,” Patel, who runs the Akanksha fertility clinic in Gujarat said. The latest move comes after India issued new rules in 2012 barring foreign gay couples and single people from using surrogate mothers to become parents.
The decision drew criticism from gay rights advocates and fertility clinics. Before the new announcement was made, foreign couples who were seeking to enter into a surrogacy arrangement in India had to be a man and woman who had been married for at least two years.
*Bobby Bains runs http://www.indiansurrogacy.com