Govt mouthpiece bats for surrogacy tourism

Branding surrogacy as “reproductive tourism”,the official mouthpiece of the Gujarat government has described the practice as a money-spinner for both the state and the surrogates.

Written by Avinash Nair | Ahmedabad | Published: May 21, 2012 2:16 am

Branding surrogacy as “reproductive tourism”,the official mouthpiece of the Gujarat government has described the practice as a money-spinner for both the state and the surrogates. This comes even as issues surrounding commercial surrogacy continue to be debated.

“Today in this fast-paced technological world,remote solutions such as surrogacy have now become common realities. Some of us would deridingly call it a womb-on-rent,when a woman bears a child for someone else…,” says an article in the latest issue of The Gujarat.

The quarterly magazine,published by the state Commissionerate of Information,carries a cover story on Swami Vivekananda and has a “special feature” on reproductive tourism.

Written as a first person narrative of a personal visit to a town in south Gujarat,the article,titled Where the storks dare to fly…,states: “It is indeed remarkable that one small city in Gujarat has turned into reality,what might seem to be a distant dream for the rest of India. The state has set a precedent in embracing humanist ideas by facilitating reproductive tourism,which has proved immensely valuable.”

Talking about the surrogates — mostly women from poor socio-economic backgrounds,who get paid between Rs 2.5-Rs 4 lakh for bearing a child mostly for childless NRIs or foreigners — the author writes,“Apart from empowering the surrogates,it is bringing a lot of revenue for the state… furthering its development.”

The article focuses mostly on the surrogacy clinic of Dr Nayana Patel that thrives in Anand. The home of India’s milk revolution is described in the article as “unassuming town which has made an indelible mark on the world map for reproductive tourism”.

“Cynics may argue on the ethics of the process. But can cynics give a child to a childless couple and empower surrogates not only through financial independence,but also through a sense of working for a noble cause?” Dr Patel is quoted as saying in the article.

While the government has been promoting medical tourism for about a decade now,the tourism policy does not carry any mention about surrogacy or its promotion. “We cannot patronise any one discipline,” state Health and Family Welfare Minister Jaynarayan Vyas told The Indian Express when asked about the government’s official stand on surrogacy.

“It is one of the accepted medical fields that has its own accepted nuances and standard practices. There are several IVF clinics in Gujarat that are run by highly trained and capable professional doctors. However,like any other law it has its own hazards,” added the minister who felt that surrogacy in India had “deep roots” and could be traced to “Vedas” and “Puranas”.

However,last week’s incident wherein a 30-year-old surrogate mother died at an Ahmedabad hospital while carrying a kid for a American couple,has added a new dimension to the debate on surrogacy. The woman,Premila Vaghela,was eight-month pregnant and is survived by two children.

While the Vaghela family refused to speak to on the issue,Dr Patel from Anand said,“At present,the contracts signed between the surrogate mother and the couple (whose baby she is carrying) does not talk of any compensation in case of death of the surrogate mother. Those who agree to become surrogates are told well in advance about the complications involved in pregnancy.”

Dr Patel,who has so far overseen birth to 496 surrogate children at her clinic in Anand since 2004,added that though it was “difficult to find insurance companies are who are willing to insure pregnant women”,her clinic had “instances in the past where surrogate mothers were insured for a sum of Rs 2 lakh in case of death”.

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