Hyderabad Raid Shows What Happens To Surrogate Mothers Post-delivery
Legal and medical aides are provided to the surrogate mothers but much of it remains on paper only. The health conditions of surrogate mothers can deteriorate if they don’t receive timely medical and sanitary facilities.
CHENNAI, India, June 19 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – P olice raided an illegal fertility clinic in southern Indian at the weekend and discovered 47 surrogate mothers – who had been lured to rent their wombs for money – living in “terrible conditions”, they said.
Following a tip-off, Telangana state police raided the fertility clinic in the city of Hyderabad on Saturday and discovered the women, nearly all from northeastern India.
“The women were all huddled in one large room and had access to just one bathroom,” investigating officer B. Limba Reddy told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Monday.
“They were mostly migrants from northeastern states who had been brought here through agents and promised up to 400,000 rupees (around $6,000).”
An official from the clinic, who declined to be named, said the facility operated within the law and the women were not confined against their will.
“They were staying here as part of an agreement between the (adoptive) parent and the surrogate,” he said.
India’s surrogacy industry has come under attack from women’s rights groups who say such clinics are “baby factories” for the rich, and lack of regulation results in poor and uneducated women signing contracts they do not fully understand.
Activists say there has been a surge in demand for surrogates after the Indian government drafted a bill to outlaw commercial surrogacy – a multi-billion dollar industry.
The bill is pending clearance in the Indian parliament.
Until the ban on surrogacy passes, India continues to be among a handful of countries where women can be paid to carry another’s child through in-vitro fertilization and embryo transfer.
“The demand is very high right now and the involvement of migrant workers coming down from the northeast to take up surrogacy is new,” said Hari Ramasubramanian of the Indian Surrogacy Law Centre.
“It raises concerns about the information the surrogates have, whether they have understood the agreement (and) the risks involved.”
The Telangana health department is investigating the background of the surrogate mothers, said an official who declined to be named, adding the women are now under the department’s supervision at the clinic.
- Surrogacy as a practice boomed after when it was legalized in 2002
- The surrogate mothers are deprived of post-delivery health services
- No proper medical attention to surrogates deteriorates their health
After the Hyderabad police raid on a fertility clinic, the spotlight is back on the legal ambiguity around surrogacy and Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) in the country.
During a raid at Sai Kiran Infertility Centre on Saturday, 48 women who signed up to be surrogate mothers were found holed up in the building. The women were kept at the centre for the entire duration of their pregnancy.
The women staying in the centre said that they were not being forced into surrogacy. However, they’re reportedly not “allowed” to go out.
As the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016 is still pending in Parliament, commercial surrogacy is legal in India. Some health officials have said that while the operation may not be illegal, it is unethical at many levels.
The authorities are in a legal quandary since there are no clear cut guidelines on surrogacy which helps them to know if any illegal activity is being carried out at clinics where ART procedures are practised.
Due to this, the health department says, they cannot seize the hospital, as it is a registered clinic.
In 2005, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) issued guidelines for accreditation, supervision, and regulation of ART clinics in India. These guidelines, however, are not binding and attract no penalties if flouted.
The health department in Telangana decided to hold a review meeting on Thursday to devise an action plan for strict implementation of surrogacy rules.
A health officer was quoted as saying in The News Minute that they have questioned the doctors and staff about the condition of the centre, but cannot do anything more for now. More so because all the women are voluntarily staying there.
Reports say that the fertility centre hired brokers, and was collecting Rs 15 to Rs 30 lakh from their clients, while only paying Rs 3 lakh to the surrogate mothers.
Presently, the bill which is yet to pass, proposes “extra protection” for surrogate mothers through mandatory “insurance cover” and complete abolishment of commercial surrogacy.
The bill also prohibits single parents, homosexuals, and live-in couples from becoming commissioning parents.
Speculations begun to brew over the newborns left unaided at the Sai Kiran Fertility Centre in Hyderabad which was raided by the Hyderabad Central Task Force in the early hours of the 20th of June 2017. While the health issue of the babies born at the centre is of major concern and needs to be tackled at the earliest, the post-delivery repercussions on the surrogate women at the centre and in India at large also need serious attention. The health inspectors who reached the centre along with the task force reported that the sanitation facilities provided to surrogate mothers is worrisome. The women are not allowed to go out of the hospital during the pregnancy period and are locked in rooms which are not in good condition.
Many Laws, Zero Action
There has been a slew of bills favoring the surrogate mothers ever since it was made commercially legal in 2002. However how far has those been dutifully implemented has been an issue of grave concern. The non-availability of proper medical facilities for surrogate mothers at private fertility centres like the one in Hyderabad has serious impact on the mothers who lend their wombs to couples in need. The laws provide both legal as well medical benefits to the women involved in this service but the laxity of the administration which in most cases are not properly monitored does not allow the surrogate mothers to avail those benefits.
The legal support is one of the essential supporting tools for the surrogate mothers who are hired by couples who usually don’t follow the ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) guidelines on deciding the total cost of the surrogacy. Apart from proper financial help to the surrogates, the post-delivery medical benefits also need to reach the mothers so that their body recovers fast and quickly gets back to normalcy. The actual scenario, on the other hand is not so impressive. The mother is left to herself after the baby is legally taken away by the couples. With no proper financial and medical attention, the surrogates acquire many diseases and other health related problems.
Health repercussions on surrogate mothers
The mistreatment of surrogate mothers at different private fertility centres during and post gestation period affects them badly, as a result of which their body takes longer time to get back to its normal metabolic rate. Some couples take the baby away just one or two weeks after the delivery and this can affect the surrogates badly who can face many problems, like-
1. Breast engorgement and sore nipples
2. Deficiency of essential supplements like- Calcium, Iron, DHA and Omega-3 fatty acids
3. Excessive Vaginal bleeding
5. Bone deformation