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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

How to regulate commercial surrogacy in India ?

There are now so many articles in favour of , and against , Indian government's move to ban commercial surrogacy. I do not want to get into that debate. I have gone through infertility and I know how hard it can be when you are denied the right to have your biological child because of a medical problem. On the other hand , surrogacy in India , in its present form , is definitely not ethical enough. The most exploited person in a surrogacy arrangement is the surrogate. When Indian doctors claim that this surrogacy arrangement is OK , and it's a win - win situation for all , I wonder whether they have ditched their conscience. In terms of benefit , in a surrogacy arrangement , the surrogate occupies the bottom rug of the ladder - but she does the most important and tedious job. The IVF patient and doctor are happy partners who are keen on getting their much needed baby and money , respectively. Although , intellectually speaking , this arrangement looks perfect - everyone gets what they want and no one is harmed - but the truth is , surrogate , who in majority of cases is uneducated and desperate for money ,  is exploited.
So , what can the Indian government do to regulate surrogacy rather than banning it ?
Step # 1
Does a patient really needs surrogacy ?
Government must set up a panel of doctors to decide whether a patient must be allowed to take up surrogacy or not.
If it is decided that a particular patient needs surrogacy to conceive , they must be first encouraged to find a relative who is willing to be their surrogate. If it fails , then they must be encouraged to pursue commercial surrogacy.
Step # 2
Examining the candidate who wants to be a surrogate.

Why shouldn't a surrogate's basic qualification be fixed ? A woman with a functional womb - is this qualification enough to be a surrogate ? Isn't it a profession which needs a bit of intelligence and understanding too - in order to safe guard their rights , their body ? Apart from medical tests , the woman who wants to be a surrogate must be tested for their basic knowledge regarding IVF procedure , pregnancy , the risk involved in surrogacy , surrogacy laws etc. They must be able to read and understand the surrogacy document - the documents must be available in local language. 
Step # 3
Surrogate banks must be set up by the government.
Women who wants to pursue as surrogate must register their details in the bank. Whenever a patient needs a surrogate , the bank must supply the surrogate in the order they are registered. Surrogate bank must fix a minimum fee for surrogacy - it must be the same nationwide. A surrogate must also be allowed to fix her rate - it can be anywhere above the minimal rate which is fixed by the surrogate bank. When doctors can fix their rate - why can't surrogates do the same ? If the intended parents agree to the rate , they can continue the surrogacy procedure with that particular surrogate , otherwise , they can try bargaining with the next surrogate in line. This kind of arrangement gives an upper - hand for the surrogates - and I believe it's extremely important to give power to the surrogates.
Step # 4
The IVF doctor will carry out the IVF procedure on the surrogate whom his / her patient has chosen. This kind of regulation , takes away the burden from the IVF doctors. They do not have to run behind agents for recruiting surrogates , they do not have to act as a middle - man between the patient and surrogate - this will give them lots of time to concentrate on their profession.
Step # 5
Once the surrogate gets pregnant she must be taken care of the intended parents. This will encourage patients to select an IVF clinic and surrogate bank which is situated in the proximity where they live. In this way , the stigma surrounding IVF procedure , including  surrogacy , can be removed. After all , the surrogate is carrying their baby - who else will take care of surrogate's need better than the intended parents ?
Banning surrogacy altogether , and telling patients who need surrogacy to adopt , is definitely against the citizens' right to freedom. Banning commercial surrogacy altogether can lead to many underground activities. The patients will definitely go to other countries where surrogacy is legal to fulfil their rightful wish. Why should the government loose the income ?
If foreign nationals are allowed to do surrogacy in India , the surrogates must be paid equal to what they would pay for a surrogate in their place ? Why should Indian wombs be a lot cheaper ? The care of foreign nationals' surrogate must be again taken care by a government agency.
I don't know whether I am intelligent enough to propose something like this. Might be there are many loop holes in this proposal which needs to be mended. My idea is to give a lot of power to surrogates so that they do not get exploited. This kind of arrangement also protects patients from unscrupulous IVF doctors.

I must mention about my surrogate here. If you are reading my blog for a long time now , you will know that I have attempted surrogacy once. Even though it didn't work out and I abandoned the option , I still have contact with my surrogate , Rita. Such a lovely soul she is. She keeps in touch with me via WhatsApp. She calls me didi ( sister ) and showers me with so much love and affection. On seeing the news about shootings in Germany , she was the first to enquire about our well being. She was so excited to see Anisha and loves her very much. She was so happy for me when I had Anisha. Her son talks to me too , especially when I and Rita couldn't communicate deeper because of the language barrier. Once I offered Rita to pay her children's education fees as long as they study. Do you know what her reply was - " thanks didi , I have enough ". What a rich woman she is ! I know her well. She was ready to carry my child for a mere 3500 dollars. Imagine how important is money for her. She gently refused to take money from me when I offered her. I am so gifted to come across her and she carried our embryo for six weeks :) 

Indian surrogates need to be paid better and they shouldn't be treated as cattles by hoarding them all in a small place when they become pregnant. Why should others earn more , and benefit more , at their expense ?
I would be very happy to hear reader's views and suggestions , please leave your comments below !

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