India seeks to regulate its booming 'rent-a-womb' industry

Sep 30 2013, 16:05 IST
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'Legislation should be there so that this wonderful procedure can be supervised.' (AP) 'Legislation should be there so that this wonderful procedure can be supervised.' (AP)
Summary'Legislation should be there so that this wonderful procedure can be supervised.'

Dressed in a green surgical gown and cap, British restaurateur Rekha Patel cradled her newborn daughter at the Akanksha clinic in northwestern India as her husband Daniel smiled warmly, peering in through a glass door.

"I can't believe we have our own child at last," said Patel, 42, gazing in wonderment at five-day-old Gabrielle.

"We are really grateful to our surrogate mother who managed to get pregnant and kept our little daughter healthy. She gave nine months of her life to give us a child."

rent-a-womb

Surrogate mothers (L-R) Daksha, 37, Renuka, 23, and Rajia, 39, pose for a photograph inside a temporary home for surrogates provided by Akanksha IVF centre (Reuters)

It is the perfect promotion for India's booming surrogacy industry that sees thousands of infertile couples, many from overseas, hiring the wombs of local women to carry their embryos through to birth.

rent-a-womb

But a debate over whether the unregulated industry exploits poor women prompted authorities to draft a law that could make it tougher for foreigners seeking babies made in India.

"There is a need to regulate the sector," said Dr. Sudhir Ajja of Surrogacy India, a Mumbai-based fertility bank that has produced 295 surrogate babies - 90 percent for overseas clients and 40 percent for same-sex couples - since it opened in 2007.

"But if the new law tightens rules as suggested by the ministry of home affairs, which disallows surrogacy for same-sex couples and single parents, then it will clearly impact the industry and put off clients coming from overseas."

rent-a-womb

BIRTH OF A MARKET

India opened up to commercial surrogacy in 2002. It is among just a handful of countries - including Georgia, Russia, Thailand and Ukraine - and a few U.S. states where women can be paid to carry another's genetic child through a process of in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) and embryo transfer.

The low-cost technology, skilled doctors, scant bureaucracy and a plentiful supply of surrogates have made India a preferred destination for fertility tourism, attracting nationals from Britain, the United States, Australia and Japan, to name a few.

There are no official figures on how large the fertility industry is in India. A U.N.-backed study in July 2012 estimated the surrogacy business at more than $400 million a year, with over 3,000 fertility clinics across India.

The Akanksha clinic in Anand is the best-known at home and abroad, giving the small town in

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