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Commercial surrogacy bill under Rajya Sabha scrutiny

Family law, surrogacy, family right concept. Child-custody concept. Family with children cutout near court gavel on dark wooden background top view.The controversial commercial surrogacy bill imposing a number of restrictions on the practice is to be deliberated by a select committee of Rajya Sabha MPs. 

The Government of India introduced the commercial surrogacy bill into the Lok Sabha, imposing a number of restrictions on surrogacy. Under the legislation, only married couples of women aged 23 to fifty and men aged 26 to 55 would be eligible for surrogacy. 

The couple would have to have been married for five years; require a doctor’s certificate affirming their inability to conceive; and do not already have children of their own. Their surrogate could only be “an ever-married woman having a child of her own and between the age of 25-35 years” who is a “close relative” of the couple. Cohabiting couples, prospective single parents, and same-sex couples would be uneligible to avail surrogacy under the bill. 

“[It was] unfortunate that the country had emerged as a hub of commercial surrogacy in recent years” Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said at the time. “There are 2,000-3000 surrogacy clinics running illegally in India…a few thousand foreign couples resort to surrogacy practice within India, and the whole issue is thoroughly unregulated. There have been reports concerning unethical practices, abandonment of children born out of surrogacy and exploitation of surrogate mothers.”

The commercial surrogacy bill, while aiming to overcome a regulatory vacuum enabling a proliferation of “[misuse] by surrogacy clinics, which leads to rampant commercial surrogacy and unethical practices”, was controversial due to the stringent implications it imposed and criticised by fertility experts. Nonetheless, the bill secured passage through the Lok Sabha. 

Concerns have been expressed by Rajya Sabha MPs about the provisions of the bill. As such, Vardhan moved a motion to refer the commercial surrogacy bill to a 23-MP select committee for review which the Rajya Sabha approved by a voice vote. 

The committee will consist of Prasanna Acharya, R. S. Bharathi, A. R. Biswas, Sambhaji Chhatrapati, Vandana Chavan, Anil Desai, Naresh Gujral, Sushil Kumar Gupta, Hishey Lachungpa, Vikash Mahatme, Parimal Nathwani, A. Navaneethakrishnan, Saroj Pandey, Banda Prakash, Jairam Ramesh, K. Somaprasad, V. Vijayasai Reddy, Ramchandra Prasad Singh, Veer Singh, Ashwani Vaishnav, Ravi Prakash Verma, Bhupender Yadav, and Amee Yajnik, as reported in The Times of India.

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