Surrogacy (Regulation) Act, 2021
About the Act
- The Surrogacy (Regulation) Act, 2021 was recently passed by the Parliament.
- The Act defines surrogacy as a practice where a woman gives birth to a child for an intending couple with the intention to hand over the child after the birth to the intending couple.
Highlights of the Act
Regulation of surrogacy
- The Act prohibits commercial surrogacy, but allows altruistic surrogacy. Altruistic surrogacy involves no monetary compensation to the surrogate mother other than the medical expenses and insurance coverage during the pregnancy.
- Commercial surrogacy includes surrogacy or its related procedures undertaken for a monetary benefit or reward (in cash or kind) exceeding the basic medical expenses and insurance coverage.
Purposes for which surrogacy is permitted
- Surrogacy is permitted when it is: (i) for intending couples who suffer from proven infertility; (ii) altruistic; (iii) not for commercial purposes; (iv) not for producing children for sale, prostitution or other forms of exploitation; and (v) for any condition or disease specified through regulations.
Eligibility criteria for intending couple
- The intending couple should have a ‘certificate of essentiality’ and a ‘certificate of eligibility’ issued by the appropriate authority.
- A certificate of essentiality will be issued upon fulfilment of the following conditions: (i) a certificate of proven infertility of one or both members of the intending couple from a District Medical Board; (ii) an order of parentage and custody of the surrogate child passed by a Magistrate’s court; and (iii) insurance coverage for a period of 16 months covering postpartum delivery complications for the surrogate.
- The certificate of eligibility to the intending couple is issued upon fulfilment of the following conditions: (i) the couple being Indian citizens and married for at least five years; (ii) between 23 to 50 years old (wife) and 26 to 55 years old (husband); (iii) they do not have any surviving child (biological, adopted or surrogate); this would not include a child who is mentally or physically challenged or suffers from life threatening disorder or fatal illness; and (iv) other conditions that may be specified by regulations.
Eligibility criteria for surrogate mother
- To obtain a certificate of eligibility from the appropriate authority, the surrogate mother has to be: (i) a close relative of the intending couple; (ii) a married woman having a child of her own; (iii) 25 to 35 years old; (iv) a surrogate only once in her lifetime; and (v) possess a certificate of medical and psychological fitness for surrogacy. Further, the surrogate mother cannot provide her own gametes for surrogacy.
National and State Surrogacy Boards
- The central and the state governments shall constitute the National Surrogacy Board (NSB) and the State Surrogacy Boards (SSB), respectively.
- Functions of the NSB include, (i) advising the central government on policy matters relating to surrogacy; (ii) laying down the code of conduct of surrogacy clinics; and (iii) supervising the functioning of SSBs.
Parentage and abortion of surrogate child
- A child born out of a surrogacy procedure will be deemed to be the biological child of the intending couple. An abortion of the surrogate child requires the written consent of the surrogate mother and the authorisation of the appropriate authority. This authorisation must be compliant with the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971.
- Further, the surrogate mother will have an option to withdraw from surrogacy before the embryo is implanted in her womb.
Offences and penalties
- The offences under the Act include: (i) undertaking or advertising commercial surrogacy; (ii) exploiting the surrogate mother; (iii) abandoning, exploiting or disowning a surrogate child; and (iv) selling or importing human embryo or gametes for surrogacy.
- The penalty for such offences is imprisonment up to 10 years and a fine up to 10 lakh rupees.
Why in News?
- Two petitioners have approached the Delhi High Court to question why marital status, age, or gender should be criteria for prohibiting someone from commissioning a surrogacy.
- Under the Surrogacy (Regulation) Act, 2021 a married couple can opt for surrogacy only on medical grounds. Though the law allows single women to resort to surrogacy, she has to be a widow or a divorcee between the age of 35 and 45 years. Single men are not eligible.
- The petitioners also challenged the ban on commercial surrogacy.
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