The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019 approved and passed by the Lok Sabha on August 5, 2019, turned out to be controversial by various Rajya Sabha members due to the presence of different clauses such as prohibiting any woman other than a ‘close relative’ to act as a surrogate. Therefore, it had to undergo a revaluation process on November 21, 2019, by a selected committee.
There were 9 sittings of comprehensive assessments and detailed discussion on the bill held by the committee with the other major stakeholders such as the National Human Rights Commission, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, and the department of health research.
Bhupendar Yadav, the chairman of the Select Committee for the Surrogacy (Regulation Bill), 2019, submitted the report in the Rajya Sabha suggesting the following:-
- Ban on commercial surrogacy
- Allowing any willing woman to act a surrogate besides a ‘close relative’
- Removing the five-year wait period clause before couples can opt for surrogacy
- Enabling single women and Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) to avail surrogacy
The select committee also suggested extending the insurance coverage period for surrogate mothers to 36 months from 16 months. The report also said that single women, in the age group of 35 to 45 years, which also includes widowed and divorced women, can opt for surrogacy.
Apart from supporting commercial surrogacy, the committee has advised considering the option of paying the surrogate mother for the additional expenses besides the compensation of medical and insurance coverage such as the requirement of a nutritional diet during pregnancy, maternity clothes expenses, and other essential expenses for maintaining great health of the surrogate mother.
The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019, aims to form a suitable regulation for the surrogacy procedure and avert exploitation of the surrogate mother and the child born through surrogacy. It also recommends allowing widow or divorcee women to avail surrogacy.
The committee has eliminated the contentious clause of ‘close relative’ and has endorsed an alternative term ‘willing woman,’ which means any woman can provide her surrogacy services even if she is not a near relative. The report states that “the term “close relative” potentially restricts the availability of surrogate mothers and may affect the genuinely needy persons.”
The select committee report stated that “Surrogacy per se and The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019, in particular, is a unique amalgamation of social, ethical, moral, legal and scientific issues and it is necessary to harmonize the conflicting interests inherent in the process of surrogacy to ensure betterment of child while protecting rights of surrogate mother.”
It also said, “It is a step in that direction which seeks to regulate surrogacy procedure in such a way as to stop exploitation of poor vulnerable women; to ensure protection of rights of the child born out of surrogacy and to facilitate only needy infertile couple and widow and divorced women to have child to complete their family.”
The Surrogacy Bill also proposes to ban commercial surrogacy and only allow altruistic surrogacy. In the 228th Report (2009) of Law Commission of India strictly recommended interdicting commercial surrogacy and permits ethical altruistic surrogacy regulated by proper legislation, as presented by The Department of Health Research. The other countries in which the same types of surrogacy arrangements are performed are New Zealand, South Africa, Canada, Israel, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Australia, etc.