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Some Westerners who have engaged in surrogacy in India find themselves in legal limbo.
Activist Chayanika Shah argues that the bill lumps the woman and her womb together with sperm and eggs and thereby treats the surrogates like “child-bearing devices” rather than human beings.
“She is not only a womb, she is a person. She is a person who is providing labor for somebody else,” said Shah.
Shah argues there should be a separate bill that delineates the rights of a surrogate and ensures she has proper information on the risks involved.
Surrogates in India tend to be lower class women who are offering the service because they need the money to support their families. Because these women often feel a stigma around their choice to carry another woman’s child, they are unlikely to form unions or otherwise advocate for their rights, Shah said.
The surrogate, she said, “is obviously the weakest party and her rights have to be protected the most.”
The law also faces resistance from some doctors who feel it takes away their control over the process. Nayana Patel, the medical director of the Akanksha Infertility Clinic, in Gujarat, says the bill’s introduction of an agency that acts as a mediator between the surrogate, future parents and clinic could increase expenses and the chance for corruption.
An agency might be necessary in an urban setting, said Patel, whose work has been featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show. However, in a small town like hers, the clinic wants to be involved in helping choose the surrogate, ensuring she gets proper attention, nutrition and compensation, and then following up with her to help her spend her earnings as she had planned.
“In our small town it’s always better that we have direct contact,” Patel said.
Another problem with attempting to regulate assisted reproduction is that the field is rapidly evolving in India, according to Parikh. Problems arise when science and society develop faster than the law.
“By the time the bill is legislated there will be many modifications that we will have to make.”
Whether the bill passes or not, Volden is stuck in India with the twins for now. She has spent the past year living here and trying to work out a legal solution to a complex family problem.
Follow Hanna on Twitter: @Hanna_India