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Weeks after External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj defended the Union Cabinet’s new surrogacy law, she offered help to extend the visa for a British couple who have had a surrogate child in India.
Swaraj, who had tweeted details of the UK couple Tuesday night, said on Wednesday, “Chris & Michele Newman – Orphanage is not an option for Baby Lily. We will help u with extension of your Visa. Pl give your details…Meanwhile, pl obtain British passport for Baby Lily.”
Chris and Michele Newman are in Mumbai with a medical visa that expires on October 7. According to the British consulate, Lily’s travel documents might not be ready by that time.
Questioning British authorities and taking a jibe at critics of the government’s new surrogacy Bill, Swaraj tweeted Tuesday: “Should orphanage be the destiny of a surrogate baby? Commercial surrogacy is banned in Britain. Will British Government give a British passport to this surrogate Baby? Will the advocates of commercial surrogacy suggest a solution and help this Baby?”
The Newmans are among the last ones to have a surrogate child in India after the government banned foreigners from opting for surrogacy in the surrogacy (regulation) Bill.
Michele and Chris, based in Epsom in Surrey, married in 2011 and initiated the surrogacy procedure last year through a surrogate mother in Mumbai.
In a petition, Get Lily Louise Newman Home, posted on change.org, the couple said: “We are proud new parents to our amazing daughter Lily, who was born in Mumbai through surrogacy in May 2016. We travelled to Mumbai for Lily’s birth and to bring her home to Epsom in Surrey. However, we have been left stranded because of delays due to UK Passport Office (HMPO) checks and may have to leave our three-and-a-half month old daughter with a complete stranger, as we are forced to leave by the Indian Government.”
“We can’t believe that we could be forced to do the unthinkable and leave our baby in India!” the couple added in the petition. They also said that since their daughter’s travel documents might not be ready before their visa expires, they were forced to consider the option of putting her in an orphanage.
When contacted, the couple’s friend, Polly, said that Newmans would not be available for further comment.
According to the couple’s petition, Lily’s application has been with the UK passport office since June 3. The UK Home Office has said in a statement: “The welfare of children is paramount in surrogacy cases. HM passport office has to ensure the child has claim to British Nationality, that surrogacy laws are adhered to, and that the child’s best interests are protected.”
According to an official from the British Embassy in Mumbai, the couple was “offered all assistance that was possible”.