surrogacy

The morality conflict of surrogacy

India is very fortunate to have had numerous great women, Mrs, Vijaylaksmit Pandit- the first Indian woman President of UN General Assembly, Sarojini Naidu to Indira Gandhi only the second woman Prime Minister in the world to Kalpana Chawla to Pratibha Patil, the first woman President of India and many more whose contribution have proved to be more than a match. Their contribution to society as a whole and Women, in particular, is invaluable. But beyond that, women are a symbol of love, affection, motherhood, and also the epitome of brave, strong, and fierce.

Motherhood is the most beautiful and divine phase in a woman’s life. Every woman has a dream, a rather more natural, to become a loving mother. However, as harsh as life is, many women or couples are not able to conceive children. In such cases, the concept of surrogacy has evolved. If we look at it through the lens of love, surrogacy gives chance to introduce life in the world and fulfill the dreams of many with joy, satiety, and meaning.

But if surrogacy is so simple, why are there ethical dilemmas associated with it?

Surrogacy is a very unique issue beset with several ethical, social, and legal dilemmas that often center around women. Surrogacy is a kind of agreement between the couple and a woman with whom they want to share the luck. It is an arrangement where a woman agrees to carry a pregnancy that is genetically unrelated to her or her partner. It means that a woman carries a child in her womb that is not genetically her own but is fertilized outside in the lab using the host parents’ sperm and eggs. It is thus with the intention to term and hand over the child to its genetic parents with whom she entered in a contract. In simple words, surrogacy is the process of carrying someone else’s child in your womb.

surrogacy

Through commercial surrogacy, many couples pay a fee to a woman in exchange for her carrying and delivering their baby. At birth, the child is turned over to the host party, either privately or through a legal adoption process. Many couples who face fertility issues or other reasons like same-sex relationships, often sought surrogacy as an ultimate solution. And the women who conceive their children are called surrogate mothers.

Though commercial surrogacy is legal in India- not many are comfortable with it. It consists of issues such as women’s exploitation, basic rights denial to a child, the potential to split parenthood, and many more. It also raises multiple ethical and moral issues like the commoditization of children, which is internationally illegal. But beyond these problems, is the main issue of women’s health. The WHO reported in 2008 that more than 358,000 women died from complications related to childbirth and pregnancy.

Additionally, an alarming number of 1 crore women suffer from injury, infection, and diseases as an outcome of pregnancy. Therefore, the risk in surrogacy is not less and may even be greater than normal pregnancies as there are higher chances of multiple births and caesareans. Thus, critics often use the human rights shield when supporting the issue.

Since many countries do not recognize surrogacy legally, India has become a popular destination of fertility tourism. Many people from around the world travel to India to find surrogate mothers and in exchange pay a particular amount of money. This is well shown in the 2021 movie ‘Mimi’ starring Kriti Sanon and Pankaj Tripathi. With this, the main ethical issue also rise- abandoning. Many times, when childbirth complications result in an unhealthy child the host family usually abandons both the child and the surrogate mother. Also, the surrogate could claim the child as her own or enforce parental visitation or custodial rights and vice versa, thus creating problems. As India has no guidelines or regulations governing surrogacy, these issues become even more complicated.

The legal complications

surrogacy

As there will be no solution to the above problems unless and until Government imposes strict regulations regarding commercial surrogacy. Till then, the best alternative is adoption. Thousands of children across the world are orphans and crave parents. Childless couples could instead adopt kids rather than craving for their own. However, adoption comes with complex procedures. A common adoption law for all the citizens across religions or Indians living in other countries is not present. Therefore, people are forced into IVF or surrogacy.

Amid all the discussion, one problem remained constant i.e lack of governmental regulations. The Lok Sabha passed the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill in 2019 that aims to regulate the practice of surrogacy in India and allow only “ethical altruistic surrogacy”. While the bill has brought a ray of hope for infertile couples, it also restricts or disallows single, divorced or widowed, unmarried couples and homosexual couples from pursuing surrogacy to have children.

As per it, the surrogate mothers can only be the close relatives of the couple on the premise that it may discourage the exploitation of women. But just lame as it sounds, the bill mistakenly believed that there is no exploitation within the family. Though the bill mandates commissioning couples to only pay for the medical expenses and an insurance cover of 16 months, it does not provide proper counseling, dietary supplements, or post delivery care to the surrogate mothers.

The Bill, therefore, seems like a poor attempt at promoting reproductive technologies. Since, there are no legal provisions that discourage the exploitation of women, the ethical conflict with surrogacy will continue to prevail.

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