Surrogacy: A Superfluous Concept?

Some facts and figures about Surrogacy in India:

· First surrogate baby in India was delivered on June 23rd, 1994
· In 2002, India became the first country in the world to allow commercial surrogacy
· Approx. 2000 babies are born every year through commercial surrogacy in India
· With approx.. 12000 foreign nationals coming to India for surrogacy every year, it is now a huge industry worth Rs 3000 crore 
· Anand, Gujarat is considered the surrogacy capital of India
· A surrogate is paid somewhere between 4-12 lakhs for carrying a child, other than the expenses
· If Surrogacy Bill is passed as law, commercial surrogacy will be abolished in the country.

Surrogacy is legally defined as a method of reproduction where a woman who may or may not be biologically related to the baby, carries a pregnancy for other individual(s) under a contract. In simplified terms, when a woman gives birth to a baby with an intention to surrender it to other party/parties is called surrogacy. Though the concept had been highlighted sporadically in the past when famous people opted for surrogacy or a surrogacy case went haywire, it has been pushed to center-stage recently with the proposed Surrogacy Bill, 2016. If this bill passes in the parliament and becomes a law, the sprawling surrogacy industry in India will face some serious setback. People associated with the industry have voiced fears over the losses it will incur and its effect on surrogacy tourism for a country which fetches hefty foreign exchange due to it. In the light of recent developments, it is important that surrogacy be examined with fresh social and ethical perspectives and with utmost unbiased approach to find an answer to the basic question- Should We Really Encourage Surrogacy in India?

It is a statistically proven fact that surrogacy has become a huge industry in India and is continuously growing since last few years. In spite of occasional hiccups, India has found a prominent place on the global map as the most favored surrogacy destination. There are multiple factors that put India on the top of the list for surrogacy. Better and cheaper medical facilities, higher success rates, availability of surrogates at a relatively cheaper rates and lenient legislation governing the practice are some of them. Commercial surrogacy, hiring an unrelated woman for carrying the baby in lieu of financial compensation, is banned in many western countries but can be practiced in India. Surrogacy for single parents and gay couples is relatively easier in the country. For many distraught women, being a surrogate mother is relatively an easier way to raise money for many basic necessities of their life struggles. While surrogacy as a concept was not openly accepted in Indian society till a few years back, the situation is changing fast and more and more Indian couples have started exploring surrogacy as an option for birthing their babies. And this steep increase in cases of commercial surrogacy has forced government to amend the legislation governing the issue. However, law is just one aspect of the situation.

Surrogacy- A superfluous concept?

India has approximately 20 million orphans as of dates. According to Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA), 50000 from them are considered adoptable. However, only 3.2 per cent (1600 children) are up for adoption even when there are more than 7500 parents in the wait list. Some kids have medicals reasons while others are just not desirable enough to be adopted. Considering these disturbing statistics it does seem superfluous to bring a new child into the world through surrogacy. Adoption has always been the last resort for childless parents. Raising the biologically unrelated child as our own is still not accepted openly in Indian society. But the younger generation is overcoming the stigma and adopting even if they are biologically capable of bearing a child. But the change is too little to be noticed. While the mindset towards adoption is slowly undergoing a favorable change, the adoption laws in our country make the task all the more daunting. 

So what does surrogacy offer that adoption does not? A biological connection to the child to at least one of the parent is one main reason in favor of surrogacy. The chances of any hereditary medical ailments in the later age are reduced since the medical history of parents is known. In adoption, that risk is higher as the biological parents in most cases are not known. In commercial surrogacy, development of the foetus is closely monitored and surrogate is taken care of to ensure that the child is healthy at birth. The process of surrogacy, both domestic and inter-country, is faster in India as compared to the process of adoption. Clearly, for childless parents surrogacy does seem an easier and safer option, if cost is not an issue for them.

But does that make surrogacy a better option than adoption. Or is it ethical to commercialize the process? To put it more bluntly, is it ethical or even humane to “rent a womb”? The answer here should be a big bold NO. Even without going into the grotesque details of commercializing the process of childbirth, surrogacy as compared to adoption is certainly superfluous in a country where millions of children are waiting for a loving abode. The obsession to have one’s own genes in the child should be overcome by the parental feelings of love and compassion. When a child is adopted, the parents exercise their power to change his or her destiny by giving him love and care which every child deserves. Surrogacy, on the other hand, is an heartless practice of hiring somebody to birth your child because you can afford to do so. No matter how beautifully this is sugarcoated, it is still as bad as exploitation of economically weaker section in some way. 

A child brings immense happiness to a household. And it is absolutely natural that some couples feel incomplete without a child. While some chose to not have kids, there are also who are forced to remain childless due to some reason. Other than assisted pregnancies, surrogacy and adoption can be answers for such couples. And despite the laws, the opposition and the complication associated with them, both the options are here to stay. However, the need of the hour is to choose a more sensible and empathetic option. Instead of putting a price to childbirth, it makes more sense to offer loving care to those who are left desolate by destiny.

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