Although a widely accepted norm, surrogacy in India is still looked at with suspicion. The idea of lending one’s womb to another is something that is unpalatable to most. However, owing to greater spread of education, many women, single and married are opting for surrogacy. This has insinuated a debate as to whether surrogacy is morally acceptable or not. Recently a woman in Karnataka has been in news because she ‘rented’ her womb in order to pay off her debts. This is being viewed by some in the general public as an immoral and heinous act. However, what needs to be understood is the fact that the underlying cause behind this woman’s decision is rooted in social and economic inequality and does not reflect poorly on her character per say.
Before delving further into the matter, one must understand what surrogacy means. Surrogacy essentially means that a woman willingly agrees to carry and deliver a child for another person or couple. This woman can be the child’s genetic mother if her eggs are used for fertilisation or she can also just be the carrier in case implantation of the fertilised egg takes place through processes such as in vitro fertilisation. Surrogacy is advised in cases of infertility, homosexuality and other medical causes. Surrogacy is always undertaken via agencies which contact prospective women who are willing to carry another’s child. A legally bound is signed between both parties defining the various responsibilities of the parties involved. In most cases, it is the responsibility of the to-be parents to take care of the surrogate mother. Again, the surrogate mother needs to relinquish all her claims on the child post delivery.
In India, medical tourism is increasingly propelling surrogacy to the state of being a fast growing trend. Surrogacy has been made legal in India and the Supreme Court in 2002 had also given legal status to commercial surrogacy in 2002. Added to this is the fact the cost of surrogacy in India is relatively cheaper than other countries and the laws regarding the commercialisation of surrogacy are also not conclusive. Coupled with the fact that poverty influences many women to undertake surrogacy, the trend is slowly veering towards complete commercialisation with minimal attention paid to the health of women. Pregnancy calls for extreme caution and intensive care so that the health of the pregnant woman and the unborn child do not face perilous situations. However, Indian women who are opting for surrogacy are essentially from the economically backward class. Hence, they nutritionally deprived from the beginning. The burden of multiple pregnancies subtracts from their already depleting state of health leading to miscarriages, difficult labour and in some unfortunate cases, death.
Therefore, the need of the hour should focus less on moral debates and more on the gnawing concern that if commercial surrogacy is not actively monitored then the health of scores of women will be in jeopardy.