By Sakshi Kanodia
A surrogate mother rents her womb to get a child for an intended mother. Female infertility or any other medical problem that makes a woman unfit to bear a child is one of the chief reasons of surrogacy. There is another reason for making ‘mothering by proxy’ popular.
There are childless couples across the world. Surrogacy is a viable option for childless couples if they choose to overcome biological limitations. In case they cannot bring a child to life, there is assisted conception to help them. Parenthood is a rare experience for such couples and science can do miracles in such cases.
However, surrogacy is one controversial issue that has many supporters. There are many grey areas which we are not aware of commonly. Surrogacy has the potential to convert the normal biological function of a woman’s body into a commercial machine. There are several agencies that advertise their services. They make huge profits out of women’s bodies by hiring them as surrogates.
Surrogacy degrades the sanctity and purity of motherhood and pregnancy to a mere profitable business.
India is emerging as a leader in international surrogacy. It is reportedly a 500 million dollar industry in India. It has virtually made India into a destination for medical tourism but often it is a destination for wrong reasons. Indian surrogates are cheaper and foreign couples save a fortune while choosing them. As long as the surrogacy is a voluntary and altruistic act, there is no problem. The problem begins when money comes in.
In the case of a baby Manji (Baby Manji Yamada v/s Union of India) born to an Indian surrogate there were no takers. Many a time the partner changes his/her mind. Sometimes surrogate mothers get emotionally attached to the child in her womb and refuse to hand over the baby. As, she has literally felt the child growing inside her womb, each and every second. It feels that she is sacrificing her own kid.
India legalized commercial surrogacy in 2002 and the Supreme Court unequivocally ruled that “Commercial surrogacy is legal”. Yet there is no law to check its malpractices.
Many poor Indian women are tempted to risk their lives while carrying a child. These highly secretive and unregulated baby factories are only concerned with the baby and not the surrogate mothers’ health and sufferings. 25000 children are now being born in India every year to support an industry worth millions. Since the cost of a womb and fertility treatment in India is cheaper, would-be parents are flooding in.
But most of the industry is operating unchecked. Indian medical research watch dog drafted regulations in 2010, but it still awaits presentation in the Parliament. And even many of the supposedly well-run clinics do not appear to be transparent in their dealings. The guidelines issued in 2005 by the Indian Council of Medical Research are not in the nature of binding.
Therefore, in India, the controversial fertility market is growing into a surrogacy supermart. Surprisingly, it is legal by default. There is, however, much more that is invisible that meets the eye in the lucrative practice of surrogacy. Surrogacy laws in each country differs and it is important to understand the same before embarking on this important decision.
There is no substitute for one’s own baby in a womb. A woman undergoes a divine experience in motherhood but for childless couples, is surrogacy really the last resort? It the highest form of sacrifice for the surrogate mother. What about her feelings?
While surrogacy is used to provide a child for a childless couple, genetic engineering may go a step further.
“What is at work in assisted reproduction is often not science but business.”
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