India Wants to Ban Birth Surrogacy for Foreigners

New York Times 28 October 2015
The Indian government says it wants to prevent Indian women from becoming surrogate birth mothers for foreigners, according to an affidavit filed Wednesday with the Supreme Court.

The filing represented the latest development in a recent push to regulate an industry that has been booming in India. Estimates of the size of the surrogacy trade in India vary, with one study by Sama, an advocacy group in New Delhi, measuring it at more than $400 million.

Critics say that foreigners can find surrogates in India relatively easily, especially among impoverished women, and that this creates great potential for exploitation. Some experts, however, are concerned that banning surrogacy for foreigners would do more harm than good. “Our apprehension and fear is that the whole business will go underground,” said Manasi Mishra, who heads the research division at the New Delhi-based Center for Social Research, an organization that has published studies on surrogacy in India. “The bargaining capacity of the surrogate mother will further go down.”

In the affidavit, the Department of Health Research of the Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said, “The Government of India does not support commercial surrogacy.” The department also said that surrogacy should be available “to Indian married infertile couples only and not to foreigners.”

The new restrictions sought by the government would require approval of Parliament. The draft of a bill posted online mentions that foreigners would be excluded from the practice, but it allows exceptions for foreign passport holders of Indian origin and foreigners married to Indians. The affidavit does not mention these exceptions. The bill will be open to public comment until Nov. 15.

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