New Delhi, Oct. 30: Foreigners wishing to rent wombs in India will have to apply for medical visas from November 1 under rules imposed by India’s home ministry that forbid tourist-visa holders from seeking surrogacy services.
The home ministry rules, part of a broad government effort to regulate India’s growing wombs-for-rent industry, will require egg donors to seek medical visas while their companions would require medical attendant visas.
While same-sex couples cannot seek surrogacy services under these rules, heterosexual couples would need to be married for at least two years. And their country of origin should recognise a child born through an Indian surrogate mother as the biological child of the couple, the home ministry has said.
Foreigners would be able to seek surrogacy services only through clinics registered with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), a government agency that had initiated efforts to regulate clinics providing assisted reproduction techniques (ART) a decade ago.
“This registration process will help both foreign couples and Indian couples,” said Sunita Tandulwadkar, a gynaecologist at the Ruby Hall In-Vitro Fertilisation Centre in Pune, and chairperson of the infertility committee of the Federation of Obstetrics and Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI). “Couples will have greater faith in clinics that have registered themselves with the ICMR,” she told The Telegraph.
The ICMR has initiated the registration process intended to ensure that clinics maintain certain standards of health-care services and documentation but, Tandulwadkar said, what proportion of ART clinics in India have already registered is unknown. While the FOGSI has estimates there are more than 150 ART clinics across the country, she said, the actual number remains unknown.
A foreign couple would also need to produce a duly notarised agreement between the couple and a prospective Indian surrogate mother along with the visa application. The couple will be allowed to travel to India on a tourist visa to draw up this agreement, but will not be allowed to donate any eggs during such a preliminary visit.
India’s health ministry has drafted a bill that seeks to regulate surrogacy services, imposing curbs on the number of births by women who offer to become surrogate mothers and on the interval between the deliveries of their children.
Under the bill’s proposals, surrogate mothers cannot have more than three births, including their own children. And they should maintain an interval of two years between deliveries, whether of surrogate children or their own children.
The bill, which has been circulated to several ministries, including the women and child ministry, for comments, specifies that only women between 21 years and 35 years can offer to become surrogate mothers.