The proposed ART Bill should provide for comprehensive safeguards

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has asked the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to ensure that every surrogate mother is provided with independent legal representation and mental health counselling if she is to protect herself from exploitation.

Responding to the Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) Bill, being drafted by the ICMR, the Ministry pointed out that surrogacy arrangements usually take place between parties with unequal power, education and economic status. The Bill should provide for punitive action in case the provisions of the Bill are either not followed or misused. The emphasis should be to ensure that the benefits of surrogacy are most beneficial to those who are weakest in the supply chain (the surrogates), it said.

In order to safeguard the women who act as surrogates firm provisions need to be built into the Act, and the safeguards should be comprehensive to include financial, social and physical wellness of the surrogate mother, the Ministry said while pointing out that it should be irrelevant whether the surrogate mother is sought by an individual or a couple or whether they are Indians or foreigners.

The Ministry said the health of the woman should be a primary consideration for establishing whether it would be appropriate for her to become a surrogate mother or not. “This relates more so to mental health or the capacity of the woman to take a decision in terms of either accepting or refusing an offer for surrogacy.

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