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HOME >> MEDIA >> Surrogacy gives birth to NEW HOPE
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Surrogacy gives birth to NEW HOPE


Women who rent their womb for surrogate pregnancy are slowly shaking off their inhibition and fear of social ostracism to bring joy to childless couples


Radhika Oberoi | TNN

    The conversation is halting and prodded on by an enthusiastic Dr Anoop Gupta, who booms, ‘‘Get to know each other, now!’’ But Maria and Andrew (names changed), British citizens of African origin have already warmed up to Seema, (name changed), the 35-year-old from Gorakhpur who has offered herself as a surrogate mother for the assisted birth of their child. Her bright red bindi, sindoor and the presence of her husband at the meeting are reassuring signs of a good woman, worthy of carrying their


The couple has waited 10 childless years before making the difficult decision of opting for surrogacy at the Delhi IVF Fertility Research Centre in Bengali Market. ‘‘We liked what we saw on the clinic’s website, and when we came here, we knew the place was right. The doctors spent a lot of time with us — something that wouldn’t have happened in Teesside,’’ says Andrew, a PR professional and eager father-to-be.

Dr Anoop Gupta, who runs the clinic with his wife Alka, an embryologist, as well as a team of gynaecologists and surgeons, has delivered around 3,500 babies from 1994 to 2008 through Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART). ‘‘Around 3-4% of the cases involve surrogacy. We are very careful in picking cases that genuinely require a surrogate. Women who opt for the method simply because they don’t want to go

    through a pregnancy, lose their figure or slacken in their careers are immediately refused.’’ Dr Gupta also admits to an international clientele of around 25 couples as well as singles. This year, a Hollywood director has approached them. But the doctor prefers not to get carried away by the clinic’s growing popularity abroad. ‘‘It’s rewarding enough to help someone create a little person who looks exactly like him or her,’’ he says.

    Surrogate mothers, often riddled with financial problems, are slowly shaking off the fear of ostracism. ‘‘We are flooded with requests; but it’s best for couples to find their own surrogates,’’ he says. Seema, a mother of three children, is a first-time surrogate who believes that ‘‘Ma banna to saubhagaya ki baat hai, bhale hi janm deke kise aur ko dena pade (I feel fortunate to carry a child; so what if I have to give the baby up.)’’ She and her husband admit to doing this for money — the couple will be paid around Rs 3.5 lakh. But, they also believe they have been handpicked by God to bring joy into someone else’s life.

    Despite her husband’s approval, Seema is uneasy about facing the unrelenting glare of friends and family when the pregnancy begins to show. ‘‘My husband has four brothers, none of them know about this. We will move to Delhi before the pregnancy becomes obvious,’’ says Seema.

    Unlike Seema, Lata (name changed), who is also at the clinic, is pregnant with her third surrogate child. Her first surrogate baby was born in 2005, when she responded to an ad placed by a childless couple in a women’s magazine. Living separately from her husband, who promptly divorced her when he discovered she was pregnant and found the surrogacy theory implausible, Lata made Rs 80,000 for the first baby. ‘‘I have two children of my own, and the money isimportant,’’ she says. The second time round she made Rs 2 lakhs. The third and final time — the ART Bill 2008 (see box) prohibits a woman from acting as a surrogate more than thrice — she is pregnant with the child of an Israeli male and an anonymous Indian egg donor. ‘‘Patients from abroad pay more,’’ she says, of the Rs 3 lakhs she plans to charge only to cover delivery expenses.

    The rent-a-womb industry is estimated at around $445 million in the country. While in the US, the process could cost as much as $70,000, the cost of procuring a womb is drastically reduced here. Dr Mohinder Kochhar, the first to start an IVF center in north India at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, is squeamish about this highly commercialized approach to having a baby. Referring to the ART Bill 2008 as providing ‘‘some sort of method to the madness, in the absence of a law,’’ she is encouraged by a provision that allows friends and relatives to volunteer as surrogates. ‘‘A sister or a best friend will not become surrogates for money, but a complete stranger is probably motivated by the economics of it. And someone known to the couple will also take more care of herself during the pregnancy.’’

    Dr Gupta is also of the opinion that an unknown surrogate may make unreasonable demands, like an advance for a flat. ‘‘But with a friend or relative, the emotional bonds may be stronger and the surrogate may find it hard to give up the child,’’ he explains. Despite the legal, moral and social complexities that shroud surrogacy, there’s no stopping people from exploring the possibility of becoming a parent.


Around 8% of infertile couples need medical intervention involving the use of Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART)

    Success rate of ART procedures — In vitro Fertilization (IVF) and Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) — is under 30% THE DEAL

A woman agrees to carry a pregnancy (achieved through ART), genetically unrelated to her and her husband, to its completion and hand over the child to the genetic parent(s)

ART Draft Bill 2008

Genetic parents to adopt a child born through surrogacy

Surrogacy be recommended for patients for whom it is medically impossible/ undesirable to carry a baby to term

Payment to surrogate mothers should cover all pregnancy-related expenses

ART clinic must not advertise surrogacy arrangements. The responsibility should rest with the couple or a semen bank

    A surrogate mother should not be over 45 years of age

    ART clinic must ensure (and document) that the surrogate woman satisfies all the testable criteria (sexually transmitted or communicable diseases that may endanger the pregnancy)

    A prospective surrogate mother must be tested for HIV and shown to be seronegative for this virus just before embryo transfer

    No woman may act as a surrogate more than thrice in her lifetime

    A foreigner or foreign couple not resident in India, or a non-resident Indian individual or couple seeking surrogacy in India shall appoint a local guardian who will be responsible for taking care of the surrogate during and after the pregnancy




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