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Surrogacy ban for foreign couples sends ART centres in city in a tizzy

While the FOGSI has scheduled a meeting on the issue at Mumbai on Sunday, there is a sense of disillusionment among these centres carrying out assisted reproduction technology.

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune |
Updated: December 25, 2015 11:15:58 pm

A circular sent out late Tuesday night by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) disallowing couples from foreign countries from have children through surrogate mothers in India has thrown assisted reproductive technology (ART) centres in the city offering artificial insemination, in-vitro fertilization and surrogacy in a tizzy.

These ART centres, registered with the ICMR, have had to immediately cancel pending requests from couples from UK and Italy while scheduled embryo transfers (after a gruelling process of obtaining documents and getting everything certified from ICMR) has now been put on hold.

Members of the Indian Society of Assisted Reproduction (ISAR) are particularly upset that despite a deadline of November 14 for giving objections and suggestions to the proposed draft of the new Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill, the health ministry has issued this diktat. Dr Manish Banker, former president of ISAR, told The Indian Express that they were all in a state of shock. “What happens to the scheduled procedures? What if there was an embryo transfer tomorrow and what about the emotional trauma that the couple has to undergo if we now reject their request?” Banker said.

While the Federation of Obstetrics and Gynaecological Society of India (FOGSI) has scheduled a meeting on the issue at Mumbai on Sunday, there is a sense of disillusionment among these centres carrying out assisted reproduction technology.

Dr Sunita Tandulwadkar, chief of the IVF centre at Ruby Hall Clinic, said there were several measures followed before surrogacy was allowed for foreign couples. “The couple has to initially come on a tourist visa, submit a whole list of documents, get certification from ICMR and then apply for medical visa for the process which takes a good eight months to be completed. Every month, there are two-three queries from foreign couples for a surrogate mother. The entire process is extremely transparent. After ICMR issued a circular stopping permission for foreign couples, we have shot off emails to couples from the UK and Italy who were expected to visit Pune in November and December.”

According to Colonel Sandeep Shaligram (retired), who heads the legal team at Oyster and Pearl hospital, said their centre was mainly involved in the programme for Indian couples based in Gulf countries. “Some women may have medical problems like hysterectomy, ovarian dysfunction or even cancer. So, will this be the end of the road for infertile couples? Of course, the law should regulate the surrogacy activities, but then we need a proper legal procedure,” he said.

It may be recalled that experts had welcomed the decision to regulate the surrogacy industry and several stakeholders had been invited to send their suggestions and objections to the proposed draft of the Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill.

“The deadline was November 14, but we find that the government, in its affidavit to the Supreme Court which was hearing a petition on the matter, has categorically stated that it does not support commercial surrogacy. The SC had asked the government to respond to a PIL seeking a ban on commercial surrogacy. The Centre did not bother to wait for comments to the proposed draft bill,” said Radhika Thapar Bahl, an advocate specialising in the field of surrogacy laws who heads fertility law care firm in New Delhi.

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