NEW DELHI: The Rajya Sabha Select Committee to the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019, in its report has recommended that the definition of a surrogate mother should be expanded to include any willing woman and not just restricted to close relatives alone.
Bhupender Yadav, chairman of the 23-member panel presented the report in the Upper House on Wednesday.
Letting a single woman (including divorcee, widows or a Persons of the Indian Origin) avail surrogacy, removing the provision of requirement of five years as period of inability to conceive before opting for surrogacy and raising the insurance cover for the surrogate to 36 months from existing 16 months, are some of the other major changes as recommended by the panel.
Noting that restricting the surrogate mother to be a 'close relative' potentially restricts the availability of surrogate mothers affecting the genuinely needy persons, the Committee has recommended removal of this requirement from the Bill. "A willing woman shall act as a surrogate mother and be permitted to undergo surrogacy procedures as per the provisions of this Act," the report said.
Regarding the eligibility criteria for availing surrogacy procedure, the Committee recommended deletion of the definition of 'infertility' as the inability to conceive after five years of unprotected sexual intercourse as provided for in the Bill on the ground that it was too long a period for a couple to wait for a child.
The Committee noted that there may be certain proven medical conditions like the absence of uterus by birth, non-functional uterus, removal of uterus due to cancer, fibroids etc. or patients with chronic medical conditions where normal pregnancy is ruled out and it is medically proven beyond any doubt that surrogacy is the only option.
It was further noted that the requirement of obtaining a certificate of proven infertility is not at all justified in such cases. With the proposed deletion of the definition of 'infertility', needy persons can seek to avail surrogacy any time on the basis of a certificate of medical indication requiring gestational surrogacy
In yet another recommendation of far-reaching implications, the Select Committee of Rajya Sabha advocated that ‘single Indian woman’ i.e. a divorcee or a widow in the age group of 35 to 45 years may be allowed to avail surrogacy
The Committee noted that "there are conditions under which a single person genuinely needs to avail surrogacy option to have a child. One such situation is a young aged widow, who is otherwise capable but cannot carry a child because of fear of the social stigma attached to the pregnancy of a widow in our society." The Committee also proposed that a provision be included in the Bill allowing Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) to avail surrogacy in the country after obtaining a certificate of recommendation from the Surrogacy Boards.
Noting that the procedure of surrogacy poses the risks of medical complications and health hazards, post-partum (after delivery) and to secure surrogate mother financially and health-wise, the Committee recommended that the insurance coverage of 16 months provisioned in the Bill should be increased to 36 months which provides the surrogate mother a psychological satisfaction.
The Committee also recommended modification in the definition of altruistic surrogacy so as to cover 'such other prescribed expenses' on nutritional food required, maternity-wear etc. vital for the wellbeing and upkeep of the surrogate mother. In order to protect the interest of the child born through surrogacy, the Committee recommended that the order regarding parentage and custody of the child to be issued by a Magistrate shall be the birth affidavit of the surrogate child.
As a general recommendation, the Select Committee recommended that the Assisted Reproductive Technologies (Regulation) Bill which is awaiting cabinet approval may be taken up before the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill since it primarily deals with technical, scientific and medical aspects which also apply to storage of embryo, gamete, oocyte etc. as contained in the Surrogacy Bill.
The Committee in an important recommendation required the Appropriate Authorities of the Central and State Governments to submit data on the number of surrogacy procedures, surrogacy clinics and all related aspects to the National Board on Surrogacy so as to develop a proper database which helps in monitoring and regulation of surrogacy in the country.
Other recommendations of the Committee relate to enhancing the term of experts on the surrogacy boards from one year as proposed in the Bill to three years and officials of sufficiently higher rank to be the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of Appropriate Authorities as they deal with vital issues concerning surrogacy.