Indian government bans commercial surrogacy for foreigners, marks end to multi-million dollar industry

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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 in Anand town, about 70 km (44 miles) south of the western Indian city of Ahmedabad August 27, 2013. India is a leading centre for surrogate motherhood, partly due to Hinduism's acceptance of the concept. The world's second test tube baby was born in Kolkata only two months after Louise Brown in 1978. Rising demand from abroad for Indian surrogate mothers has turned "surrogacy tourism" there into a billion dollar industry, according to a report by the Law Commission of India. Picture taken August 27, 2013. Reuters/Mansi Thapliyal

The Indian government, in a letter dated Nov 4, has instructed officials in all states and union territories “not to support” commercial surrogacy. The order, effective immediately, bans commercial surrogacy for foreign nationals and instructs visa and immigration authorities to disallow foreign couples seeking surrogacy services from entering the country. Cases where the implantation of the embryo has already been done prior to issuing the letter will be decided on a case-to-case basis.

The Supreme Court of India, in October 2015, had expressed its concern over the country becoming the world’s most preferred destination for commercial surrogacy, reports the Times of India. It suggested a ban on the practice, directing the central government to re-examine the national policies on import of human embryo.

This was followed by a letter from the Indian Council for Medical Research officially terminating commercial surrogacy services for non-Indians, according to SensibleSurrogacy. The letter was written on the Health Ministry’s instruction, “not to entertain any foreigners for availing surrogacy services in India.”

The government’s crackdown on commercial surrogacy will leave childless couples in a limbo, making India join the list of countries such as Thailand and Nepal, both of which banned surrogacy for foreigners in early 2015.  

Nayana Patel, head of Akanksha clinic and a leading IVF specialist in western Gujarat, said, “Why should foreigners be discriminated against? We are all human beings,” reports Bangkok Post. “I have been doing this for 11 years and it's a beautiful arrangement. Banning it is not the answer.”

Surrogacy in India is a multi-million dollar industry that has attracted thousands of infertile couples annually. It was one of the few destinations that offered affordable surrogacy, around USD $25,000 (AUD $34,000) for a first-attempt success – with an ever-increasing pool of skilled doctors and comparatively less bureaucratic hurdles. However, growth of the largely unregulated industry had sparked concerns about exploitation of nearly 25,000 poor women who lent their wombs to carry embryos through to birth, reports Bangkok Post.

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