India moves to regulate the thriving business of commercial surrogacy

  • India intends to ban commercial surrogacy and recognise altruistic surrogacy through close relatives.
  • The business of surrogacy tourism is estimated to be worth $2.3 billion per annum.
  • An Indian surrogate can make as much as ₹1.2 million per birth.
Thousands of infertile couples across the world are ready to pay millions to rent a womb. That yearning has turned commercial surrogacy into a lucrative business with thousands of fertility clinics cropping up across the country. The business of surrogacy tourism is estimated to be worth $2.3 billion per annum.

An Indian surrogate can make as much as ₹1.2 million per birth — high income for women who otherwise work as domestic help et cetera. Women from economically backward sections earn 10 years worth their salary by renting their wombs.

However, a debate over unethical practices prompted the government to put an end to the exploitation of poor women. The Surrogacy Bill, 2019 is one of the key bills that will be introduced in parliament’s winter session starting from November 18, 2019.


The Surrogacy Bill, 2019

The Surrogacy Bill, 2019 aims to ban commercial surrogacy and allow altruistic surrogacy for Indian citizens. Altruistic surrogacy says that surrogates should not be monetarily rewarded. However it covers medical expenses and insurance during the pregnancy.

In 2016, the government presented the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016 and received several recommendations from the Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare. Later, the bill lapsed when the Lok Sabha dissolved. The government then replaced the 2016 bill with The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill 2019 and introduced it in the Lok Sabha on July 15, 2019.

No single parent, unmarried, live-in or gay couples please


The Surrogacy Bill, 2019 doesn’t allow unmarried, gay, live-in couples or single parents to go in even for an altruistic surrogacy. The couple will have to prove that they are married and one of them medically unfit to reproduce naturally. The bill also prohibits couple having biological children to use surrogacy.

“The certificate of eligibility to the intending couple is issued upon the fulfilment of the following conditions: (i) the couple being Indian citizens and married for at least five years; (ii) between 23 to 50 years old (wife) and 26 to 55 years old (husband); (iii) they do not have any surviving child (biological,adopted or surrogate), except if the child is mentally or physically challenged or suffers from a life threatening disorder; and (iv) such other conditions that may be specified through regulations,” said the bill.

Surrogate mothers should be close relatives

The bill also lays down several eligibility criteria to be a surrogate mother. The bill says surrogate mothers can rent womb only once. And they should have given birth to children before that. Surrogate mothers cannot be a foreign national, or a non-resident Indian.


“To obtain a certificate of eligibility from the appropriate authority, the surrogate mother has to: (i) be a close relative of the intending couple; (ii) be an even married woman having a child of her own; (iii) be 25 to 35 years old; (iv) not have been a surrogate mother earlier; and (iv) have a certificate of medical and psychological fitness. Further, the surrogate mother cannot provide her own gametes for surrogacy,” said the bill.

A blowback to the IVF centres

The bill will be a setback for all the IVF centres in the country which earn millions through facilitating surrogacy. These IVF clinics charge between ₹10-12 lakhs from a couple for an entire surrogacy package.

After India legalised surrogacy in 2002, the business of fertility clinics flourished and surrogacy tourism boomed. The country now has 3,000 clinics and then unregulated industry is wider and deeper, spread across the country.