Surrogacy Bill: Male infertility 'ignored', let's see what politics is played around womb, says author Pinki Virani

“This Bill moves the burden of surrogate birth from a paid-strange woman to an unpaid-known one within the exploitative confines of the family she is deemed as ‘married into’,” says Pinki Virani, author of Politics Of The Womb – The Perils Of IVF, Surrogacy & Modified Babies.

Pinki Virani

Pinki Virani

The Surrogacy [Regulation] Bill 2016, post-introduction in Parliament, is currently being examined by a Rajya Sabha Standing Committee.

In her detailed suggestions to the Standing Committee to “plug the several loopholes”, the author of five bestsellers adds, “The Bill ignores male inability to produce any useable sperm, thereby encouraging the placement of the entire ‘blame’ upon the wife; also evident in the fact that no male-infertility specialist has been included on the Surrogacy Board where it’s about ‘stri-rog’. This emboldens reproductive graft by being ambiguous about whose spermatozoa, whose ova — the genetic constituents — of the embryo to be carried by the altruistic surrogate as the baby’s birth-mother.”

She explains, “There are cases of father-in-law, brother-in-law's sperm fertilising the daughter-in-law’s eggs. Those-in-the-know back such unethical acts because it’s in-vitro intercourse, no sex-act, and the resultant embryo is chemically-implanted into a third-party uterus. This law must specify that the couple putting another woman at risk, as their intending child’s birth-mother, at least use their own genetic material. That is, the sperm must be that of the husband, the eggs that of the wife. If it’s not her eggs, she is not the child’s genetic-mother nor is she its birth-mother. What, then, does the wife get which she would not from adoption?”

Pinki Virani was the first to speak in favour of India’s complete ban on commercial surrogacy when its announcement created a storm as sanskaari sarkar. The author observed, “Well, we appear to have a ‘santaan sansthaa’ on the other far-side”, and counselled that people “stop this appalling parade of competing rights over a woman’s body in the name of a baby”.

She wondered if India’s middle-class was being “misled to misunderstand” since the Surrogacy Bill “stops no one from directly availing of fertility services upon themselves”.

In an interview to Firstpost, she spoke about the glamorisation of surrogacy by “certain sections of permanently-patriarchal Bollywood even as it wears the mask of modernity” who care not about the “acute hormonal violence, the onslaught on another woman’s womb, hyper-medicalised, to produce a son”.

“There is also what the repro-tech industry romanticises as the ‘gender-balancing of families’ but may be — proof is difficult since it’s not foetus post-pregnancy but embryos pre-implantation – gender selection.” Politics Of The Womb quotes a fertility specialist claiming that sex selection can be done while embryos are being checked for genetic and chromosomal anomalies before being gummed into the surrogate’s uterus as either singles or twins.

Pinki Virani has sent a copy of her suggestions to Union Health Minister Dr JP Nadda in which a possible solution stated is to not implant the surrogate with twins, but one embryo at a time, to the maximum of three IVF-cycles.

She adds, “Aggressive-IVF can present dangers of deadly diseases, deformities and disorders; women and the intending child are at equal risk as the book proves. Therefore the surrogacy law, and the upcoming Artificial Reproductive Technology Act, should minimise this risk by protecting, to its utmost, the intending mother, be she surrogate or direct-patient. With surrogacy this is possible by restricting even further the number of people who can avail of her generosity.”

Towards this, she recommends that the maximum age for the husband and wife be lowered [“gametes deteriorate with age, old sperm is particularly problematic for the mental health of offspring as international studies prove”]. Further, couples who have existing children either singly or from earlier marriages also be prevented [her book discusses third-party-reproduction arising from the “trophy-wife syndrome”].

Other solutions include how to avoid reproductive-trafficking. As she puts it, “Surrogacy spawns illegal adoption across borders to create a sub-set of reproductive-slaves. The Nepal earthquake also threw up evidence that there was active agent and clinical collusion from this side of the border. And rich people can fly in women from elsewhere.”

The author-activist also demands that the clause which allows the availing of altruistic surrogacy if an existing child is in an irreparable mental or physical condition be “deleted, it’s discriminatory”.

Once the Standing Committee gives its report, will Parliament’s June session see a rigorous debate on the Bill? “Let’s see what politics is played around the womb,” Pinki Virani responds.

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Updated Date: Mar 27, 2017 14:49:55 IST