Rajya Sabha members on Wednesday sought changes in certain provisions of the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill 2019, which mandates that only a close relative can be a surrogate mother and provisions of five years of marriage for commissioning parents.
Although the bill was supported by most members cutting across the party line, modifications were sought in provisions such as time frame for abortion, time limit of age and prior informed consent, among others.
Some of the members also sought provisions for allowances and insurance along with maternity leave for the surrogate mother, besides relaxation in numbers of surrogacy.
The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill 2019, was introduced in the Upper House on Tuesday by Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan. It has been passed by the Lok Sabha in the Monsoon Session.
Participating in the debate, P Wilson of the DMK said the bill has provisions for permission for abortion within 90 days, but sometimes there are cases of a medical emergency, and the surrogate mother cannot wait for such period.
There should be a provision of post-approval as well, he said.
“The bill also has a provision of 10 years of punishment with a non-bailable warrant in case of violation. This is not a heinous crime,” he added.
V Vijaysai Reddy of the YSRCP, while supporting the bill, sought clarity as in which close relatives of the couple opting for surrogacy could be considered for the procedure under the provisions of the bill.
He also asked the government to let Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) opt for surrogacy in India under the provisions of the legislation.
Manoj Kumar Jha (RJD) pointed out that the bill was silent on same-sex couples and people who were in live-in relationships.
Aam Aadmi Party’s Sushil Kumar Gupta said the bill has been brought in order to stop the exploitation of surrogate mothers, but in the current form would end up exploiting them more.
He sought medical aid, insurance and other benefits for women who opt to be surrogate mothers.
Vikas Mahatme of the BJP said that with the passing of the bill in Parliament, the exploitation of poor surrogate mothers would end in the country.
The bill would make it mandatory for the parents to take the child and not abandon even if the gender is not to their liking, he said.
Congress’s Amee Yajnik said the bill is much needed but in the current form contains various gaps.
She said that there were about 3,000 clinics in the country dealing with surrogacy and the bill is silent as to how these would be regulated.
She asked for a clear definition of a close relative in the bill who could be a surrogate mother.
“It is a much-needed bill but it should not be brought in haste. We need to see what is the view of the Law Commission. Also, other stakeholders are needed to be consulted,” she said.
Binoy Viswam of the CPI said that the bill is made for all human beings and a certain section of the bill are restrictive.
BJP’s D P Vats suggested that the government should only appoint doctors on the board, which would be formed to regulate it at the state and national level.
Banda Prakash of the TRS suggested that there should be a provision of wages, food, maternity leave for the government employees if she is a surrogate.
Chhaya Verma of the Congress said there should be a provision of insurance for the surrogate mother. Moreover, live-in couples should also be included.
C P Thakur of the BJP said that it should not be made so strict that nobody goes for it.
Vijila Sathyanath of the DMK opined that there should not be a waiting period of five years in case of late marriages. It should also have provisions for compensation for nourishing food, nutrition for the surrogate and the baby.
Lal Singh Vadodia said that in India on an average, one in every 4,000 female has no uterus and in such cases, there is no need to wait for five years.
Gopal Singh (BJP), Harshvardhan Singh Dungarpur (BJP), Gopal Narayan Singh (BJP) and Jugal Singh Mathurji (BJP) also participated in a discussion on the issue.
The bill seeks to ban commercial surrogacy, provides to set up surrogacy boards at national and state levels, as well as that the intending couples should not abandon such a child under any condition.
Only Indian couples who have been legally married for at least five years would be allowed to opt for surrogacy, as per the Statement of Objects and Reasons of the bill.
The bill seeks to “allow ethical altruistic surrogacy to the intending infertile Indian married couple between the age of 23-50 years and 26-55 years for female and male, respectively”.