The move to ban commercial surrogacy in India will trigger the opening of new clinics in countries such as Cambodia, a British father whose children were born to surrogate women believes.
Bobby Bains and his wife Nikki spent their life savings on fertility treatment. 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.
They have since been helping British couples to follow the same path after their daughter and son were born to Indian surrogate mothers.
India’s cabinet cleared a bill last Wednesday (24) to restrict the service to Indian married couples, following concerns over the “rent-a-womb” industry exploiting impoverished young women.
The bill seeks to bar foreign, single and homosexual would-be parents from surrogacy services in India, and states that only women who are close relatives of a beneficiary can act as surrogates.
Bains told Eastern Eye: “If this is the final gong, then in a way it’s a welcome one. It will be the start of an influx of doctors in India setting up clinics and services elsewhere, Cambodia for starters. Goodbye India.”
Dr Himanshu Bavishi, president of the Indian Society for Third Party Assisted Reproduction in Ahmedabad, said the decision was “regressive, unfortunate and careless”.
“What the government has done is gone for cheap popularity, saying that it’s a move to protect poor, exploited women,” Bavishi said. “This (surrogacy) in fact gives millions of poor women across India a chance to make a reasonably good amount of money at any one point of time without doing anything rash.”
India, with cheap technology, skilled doctors and a steady supply of local surrogates, is one of a few countries where women can be paid to carry another’s child.
Some 2,000 infertile couples enlist the help of Indian women to carry their embryos through to birth every year, according to the government.
Dr Nayna Patel, the medical director of Akanksha Hospital and Research Institute in Anand, said that while more regulation in the field was welcome, under the bill “virtually no woman” would be able to become a surrogate.
“For an infertile couple, surrogacy is a life-changing opportunity. But the bill will snatch away these opportunities from them,” explained Patel, whose clinic has handled over 1,120 surrogacy cases over the past decade.
She added a group of IVF experts and gynaecologists were studying the bill and plan to make a representation to the government before it is introduced in parliament.
However, a few experts welcomed the bill last Thursday (25), saying that it would bring more transparency to a largely unregulated industry.
“This will put an end to unethical practices and commercial surrogacy. There is nothing wrong in it,” said Dr Manish Banker, an IVF specialist in Ahmedabad.