LS passes Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill, 2020; all you need to know about proposed law
The ART bill, which was approved by the Union Cabinet last year, seeks to set minimum standards and codes of conduct for fertility clinics and egg/sperm banks
The Lok Sabha on Wednesday passed the Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill, 2020, which proposes the establishment of a national registry and registration authority for all clinics and medical professionals serving in the field.
The ART bill, which was approved by the Union Cabinet last year, seeks to set minimum standards and codes of conduct for fertility clinics and egg/sperm banks.
Moving the Bill for consideration and passage in the Lok Sabha, Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said it was tabled in Parliament in September, 2020, and the Lower House had referred it to a standing committee.
Many suggestions came from the standing committee and the government considered them, he said.
The standing committee’s report on the Bill was submitted in March this year.
“Many such ART clinics have been running in the country without regulation. A need was felt for regulation of such clinics as there are implications on the health of those who undertake the procedure,” Mandaviya said.
So what does the Bill say?
The Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill, 2020 seeks for the regulation and supervision of Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) clinics and ART banks, prevention of misuse, safe and ethical practice of ART services and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto, be taken into consideration.
The major benefit of the Act would be that it will regulate the Assisted Reproductive Technology services in the country. Consequently, infertile couples will be more ensured/confident of the ethical practices in ARTs.
The origins of the bill can be traced back to the “National Guidelines for Accreditation, Supervision and Regulation of ART Clinics in India”, drafted by the ICMR in 2005. Three years later, the ICMR came out with the draft ART (Regulation) Bill and Rules 2008.
Once the Bill is enacted by the Parliament, the Central Government shall notify the date of the commencement of the Act. Consequently, the National Board will be constituted.
The National Board shall lay down a code of conduct to be observed by persons working at clinics, to set the minimum standards of physical infrastructure, laboratory and diagnostic equipment and expert manpower to be employed by clinics and banks.
The states and Union Territories shall constitute the State Boards and State Authorities within three months of the notification by the Central government.
The State Board shall have the responsibility to follow the policies and plans laid by the National Board for clinics and banks in the state.
The Bill also provides for National Registry and Registration Authority to maintain a Central database and assist the National Board in its functioning. The Bill also proposes a stringent punishment for those practising sex selection, sale of human embryos or gametes, running agencies/rackets/organisations for such unlawful practices.
According to PRS Legislative, a child born through ART will be deemed to be a biological child of the commissioning couple and will be entitled to the rights and privileges available to a natural child of the commissioning couple. A donor will not have any parental rights over the child.
Why was the Bill drafted?
The need to regulate the Assisted Reproductive Technology Services is mainly to protect the affected Women and the Children from exploitation. The oocyte donor needs to be supported by an insurance cover, protected from multiple embryo implantation and children born through Assisted reproductive technology should be provided all rights equivalent to Biological Children.
The cryopreservation of sperm, oocytes and embryo by the ART Banks needs to be regulated and the Bill intends to make Pre-Genetic Implantation Testing mandatory for the benefit of the child born through assisted reproductive technology.
What did the Lok Sabha say?
Initiating a debate on the Bill, Congress’ Karti Chidambaram said this law is Victorian as it is not all-encompassing.
It excludes those who cannot afford this expensive procedure for a baby and the government should consider supporting poor, childless parents for taking ART’s help, Chidambaram said.
He also suggested that the government consider including lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender people (LGBTQ) in the Bill’s ambit.
BJP’s Heena Gavit said the Bill seeks to set minimum standards and codes of conduct for fertility clinics and egg or sperm banks. It also proposes stringent punishment for those practicing sex selection and sale of human embryos or gametes.
She said about 80 percent of ART clinics are not registered and the Bill will ensure strict adherence to guidelines.
“Ensuring the confidentiality of commissioning couples, women and donors will also be done under the aegis of this proposal of the Cabinet. The Bill also has a provision that those involved in trafficking and sale of embryos will be fined Rs 10 lakh at first instance and in the second instance, the person can be imprisoned for up to 12 years,” she added.
TMC MP Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar also mentioned scientist and pioneer of test-tube babies, Subhash Mukherjee, who was recently recognised by the Mamata Banerjee-led government in West Bengal for his work four decades after his death.
Speaking on the Bill, Dastidar, herself a specialist in the field, said experts should be involved at every level to monitor the Bill’s provisions.
She also said “banks” under the Bill should be abolished, unless they are associated with labs.
YSRCP’s B Venkata Satyavathi said twhile she and her party supported the Bill, there are only six IVF centres in the government sector, while thousands exist in private sector.
JD(U)’s Alok Kumar Suman contended that the cost of the procedure should be effectively monitored so that even the poor can can avail its services.
BSP’s Sangeeta Azad and TMC’s Dastidar both raised the issue of exclusion of single parents and the LGTBQ community from using this procedure. “They have a right to be parents too,” both said.
Welcoming the Bill, NCP’s Supriya Sule said that besides couples, there are a cross-section of people in this country who want to have a child, especially the LGBTQ community and single men.
She said that because of adoption rules of 2017, single men cannot adopt a girl and that is why they can not avail of this Bill’s benefits.
“This is something we, as a society, need to introspect… I think we should not deprive any human being who deserves or wants to have a child. Why do we not put all the bright minds together… and see how we can make sure that everybody can make use of all legislations we make,” Sule said.
She also said there should not be any jail terms for doctors.
BJD’s Anubhav Mohanty also said the Bill discriminates against the LGBTQ community.
He said the health minister should reconsider this Bill and should not bring it in in a hurry as there are some issues that need consideration.
Mohanty also suggested setting up of a separate ministry for children.
Supporting the Bill, BJP’s Rita Bahuguna Joshi said stringent measures are necessary to streamline things.
During the discussion, RSP’s NK Premachandran raise the point of order on an issue related to the Bill which is dependent upon another Bill.
“Surrogacy Bill is pending in the Upper House, that has not been passed. How can this House pass a law depending upon another law… My point is that this Bill cannot be taken into consideration, this Bill cannot be discussed,” he said.
Responding to this, Mandaviya said that the surrogacy Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha and now it is in the Rajya Sabha, and immediately after that “we brought this ART Bill” and both the Bills would now be taken up in the Upper House together.
CPM MP AM Ariff said the point of order raised by Premachandran should be considered as the clarification given by the minister was not sufficient.
Premachandran added that there was a procedural irregularity in this Bill and it was a “bad” legislative practice.
“Suppose the Rajya Sabha does not pass the surrogacy Bill, then what will be the fate of this Bill,” he asked. Supporting the Bill, he said, “something is better than nothing” but also suggested bringing in a comprehensive Bill.
With inputs from PTI
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