The Central government expects altruism to be the all-pervading leitmotif when adults pine for parenthood which is a noble but unrealistic expectation. Even being altruistic, as opposed to commercial surrogacy, it has decided to permit but a limited leeway in the matter of surrogacy -- only close Indian women relatives of Indian families can come to the rescue of couples seeking filial bliss.
And these relatives must offer to carry as labour of love the fertilised egg spawned by hapless family members falling under the category of close relatives. All others, as per the law in the making, including single parents must embrace adoption, admittedly the most altruistic solution to the problem of inability of married couples to produce a child. Altruism all the way, period, seems to be the refrain.
Those opposing commercial surrogacy including the government seem to have an unstated, oblique objection in addition to the ones that have been voiced loud and clear like the legal issues bedevilling surrogacy commissioned by foreigners — renting a womb for consideration is as abominable as prostitution. The truth is the two are not on all fours.
The purpose of this article is not to catalogue all the differences; suffice it to say prostitution is often a manifestation of a woman’s financial desperation to overcome which she steels herself to offering her body willy-nilly to rank strangers seeking to slake their sexual appetites. In commercial surrogacy a woman’s honour remains intact. The moral guilt of offering her womb for rent is leavened and more than neutralised by the larger social and filial cause she serves. This is not rationalisation or mere quibbling.
If this irrational moral objection is overcome, then the government can allow commercial surrogacy in government hospitals in which private clinics and hospitals would have no role whatsoever given the fact that it is their overarching ambition by and large that has brought disrepute to this arguably noble avocation.
The government can maintain a central registry in which both the service providers (read wannabe surrogate women) as well as service takers must register themselves. The data bank should have all the health details of the service providers including the last surrogate baby delivered lest a womb degenerates into a milch cow, a concern often allegedly ignored by private clinics.
Indeed nationalisation of the commercial surrogacy business would address most of the concerns of the critics and detractors including the legal issues with the government naturally having innate powers to enforce its writ both inside the country and outside.
Middle men and touts would be eliminated and surrogate women will not be short-changed by them as well as by the cupidity of private hospitals unless of course they (touts and middlemen) quickly learn to penetrate the government apparatus with the same impunity with which they penetrate private organisations. Be that as it may, the fear of commercial surrogacy going underground in the wake of the blanket ban would also be addressed through nationalisation though it might be apprehended that those fearing bureaucratic delays and strict regulations may still plump for the private industry, now operating subterranean.
In a milieu where privatisation is the buzz word, one may look askance at any hint of nationalisation but then this is one area of state stranglehold on a business no one can possibly resent. In addition, it would stop the baby being thrown with the bathwater which the blanket and peremptory ban on commercial surrogacy would amount to in more than one sense — surrogacy is an important subset of the fledgling medical tourism industry that fetches the nation valuable foreign exchange.
The government seems to be of the view that adoption any day is morally preferable to surrogacy but then such peremptory, martinet worldview cannot be imposed on hapless parents; at least a limited choice must be allowed —surrogacy in government hospitals.