The Center has made changes to surrogacy regulations concerning single women and the use of donor gametes

The most recent amendment to surrogacy laws in India brings hope to individuals seeking biological parenthood. Here’s how a doctor explains its significance…

Centre Amends Surrogacy Rules Surrounding Single Women And Donor Gametes, Here's What It Means
Centre Amends Surrogacy Rules Surrounding Single Women And Donor Gametes, Here's What It Means

In a groundbreaking development, the central government in India recently revised surrogacy laws. Reversing the ban on donor gametes imposed in March 2023, the government now permits couples to utilize donor eggs or sperm for surrogacy.

Furthermore, the amendment extends the option of surrogacy to widowed or divorced women. However, they are required to use their own eggs and obtain donor sperm for the procedure.

To delve deeper into the topic of surrogacy and explore the advantages of this new amendment, the Healthonlyforyou team conducted an interview with Dr. Rita Bakshi, a Senior Gynaecologist & IVF Expert at RiSAA IVF.

Centre Amends Surrogacy Rules Surrounding Single Women And Donor Gametes, Here's What It Means

What Does Surrogacy Entail

Describing Surrogacy, Dr. Bakshi explained, “Surrogacy is a contractual agreement in which a woman, known as the surrogate, carries and delivers a baby for another individual or couple, referred to as the intended parents. Following birth, the surrogate relinquishes parental rights, handing over the child to the intended parents.”

According to Yale Medicine, surrogacy typically involves the surrogate being impregnated via in vitro fertilization (IVF). This process entails fertilizing eggs with sperm manually, and then transferring the resulting embryo to the surrogate’s uterus. As donor eggs and sperm are often used, the surrogate is not genetically related to the child.

Surrogacy may be preferred over traditional pregnancy in certain medical scenarios, as outlined by Dr. Bakshi. These include cases where the intended mother:

  • Lacks a uterus or possesses a malformed/damaged uterus, hindering embryo implantation or pregnancy.
  • Faces significant health risks such as diabetes or cancer, rendering pregnancy perilous.
  • Has experienced multiple unsuccessful IVF attempts or recurrent pregnancy loss.

What Does Surrogacy Entail

What Led to the Ban on Donor Gametes in India

An overview from the Encyclopedia of Reproduction revealed that commercial surrogacy has been practiced in India since 2002. These regulations attracted foreigners seeking surrogacy services, leading to reported clashes between surrogate mothers and intended parents over various issues such as unlawful surrogacy practices, failure to meet payment obligations to surrogate mothers, and instances of extortion by surrogate mothers. In response to these concerns, the Indian Cabinet approved the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill 2016 aimed at regulating commercial surrogacy practices.

Dr. Bakshi highlighted several scientific reasons why the use of donor sperm or eggs for surrogacy might have been discouraged by the authorities:

  1. Concerns regarding potential changes and imprinting issues in donor gametes that could affect the development of the fetus. This implies that the surrogate mother’s environment could influence the genetic development of the fetus.
  2. The preference for a genetic connection between intended parents and the child.
  3. Elimination of potential legal complications regarding parental rights associated with the use of donor material.
  4. The risk of transmitting infectious or genetic diseases from the donor to the surrogate.

Dr. Bakshi commended these recent amendments, suggesting that the authorities should evaluate each case individually as the use of donor gametes might be appropriate in certain situations.

What Led to the Ban on Donor Gametes in India

The 2024 Amendment to Surrogacy Laws

The recent notification issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare last Wednesday introduced significant amendments to surrogacy laws in 2024. According to the notification, if the District Medical Board certifies that either the husband or wife of the intending couple suffers from a medical condition requiring the use of donor gametes, then surrogacy using donor gametes is permissible.

Furthermore, the notification stipulates that single women, whether widows or divorcees, undergoing surrogacy must utilize their own eggs and donor sperm for the surrogacy procedure.

Dr. Bakshi expressed optimism regarding these new surrogacy laws, highlighting their potential benefits for couples and single women facing infertility challenges:

1. The laws now acknowledge surrogacy as a viable option for individuals and couples seeking to build families.
2. They provide regulatory measures to safeguard the interests of all parties involved in the surrogacy process.
3. Single women are now empowered to pursue surrogacy independently with the support of these regulations.
4. Clear eligibility criteria have been established to govern access to surrogacy services.
5. The laws delineate the rights and responsibilities of intended parents and surrogates, ensuring clarity and fairness in the surrogacy arrangement.
6. Processes for obtaining necessary certificates and parental orders have been outlined, streamlining the legal aspects of surrogacy procedures.

Dr. Bakshi concluded that the legitimization and regulation of surrogacy through these laws empower a broader spectrum of individuals to ethically and legally pursue parenthood through surrogacy when necessary. This represents a significant source of hope for those aspiring to have biological children. However, while this landmark change in surrogacy laws is commendable, it’s important to note that India’s current surrogacy legislation does not extend to unmarried women, couples in live-in relationships, or the LGBTQ community. Discussions and calls for reform are prevalent in India today, indicating a growing awareness of the need for more inclusive surrogacy laws. With any luck, India’s surrogacy laws will evolve to embrace a more comprehensive and inclusive approach in the near future.