New Delhi: Do you want to hire a surrogate? No bargaining please. That’s the recommendation of the parliamentary standing committee on health in its review of the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill 2016.

“The Committee observes that the surrogacy industry in India is currently governed by the private contract model which relies on the bargaining power of the parties in setting the terms of the contract and its enforcement. Since there are enormous inequalities in the bargaining power of surrogates vis-à-vis medical clinics and commissioning parents due to surrogate’s illiteracy, socio-economic marginalization and lack of access to legal representation, the chances of exploitation of surrogate mothers are immense," said the parliamentary panel report.

“The Committee, therefore, recommends that the amount of compensation should be fixed by relevant authorities and the compensation so fixed should not be the subject matter of bargain between the commissioning couple and the surrogate mother. The Committee further recommends that the compensation to surrogates should be guaranteed from the moment they begin any use of medication in connection with surrogacy procedures and the money should be deposited directly in their bank accounts, by the commissioning parents," it said.

The committee, while reviewing the bill, emphasized that it is an individual’s private right to choose a means of attaining parenthood and family formation. A stringent legal framework is, therefore, needed to check illegal practices under the ambit of assisted reproductive technology (ART), the committee pointed out.

“There are no separate surrogacy clinics as such. Generally ART clinics offer surrogacy services as well. It would be difficult to monitor ART clinics as it would not be easy to distinguish between a surrogate pregnancy and other pregnancy through IVF (in vitro fertilization) ," the report said.

“The other IVF clinics which are not involved in surrogacy are out of the purview of the Bill. The need of the hour, hence, is to regulate all ART clinics. The Committee learns that the Department would be bringing forth the draft ART Bill after the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016 for regulation of ART Clinics," it said.

The committee also said that having a centralized database at the national level would be a step in the right direction so as to monitor the surrogates, surrogacy clinics and the commissioning parents. “All State Surrogacy Boards should be required to submit to the National Surrogacy Board, data on the surrogacy services and arrangements. Therefore, the Committee is in unison with the suggestion of keeping a registry at the national level having details of the registration and conduct of every surrogacy clinic, surrogacy arrangements, including its stakeholders, taking place across the country. Such a registry will also help in tracking the surrogate mothers who will act as surrogate only once in their lifetime," the committee report said.

The Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) Bill 2008 was revised in 2010 and 2014. The committee pulled up the government, saying, “Since then, it has been lying with the Government. Moreover, the draft ART Bill also included provisions on regulation of surrogacy facilities. The Committee takes note of the inordinate delay in bringing forth the draft ART Bill especially in view of the fact that there has been mushrooming of ART clinics across the country offering various services from IVF to surrogacy etc."

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