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Sunilkumar Ravi: In  February 2008  , twins  were born  to  Martha Immanual Khristy  from Gujrat who  were named Leonard  and Nikholas. What is  unique  about these  twins ? Well  they had  no nationality  for two years and finally the Indian Supreme  court had to intervene.  Martha was a Surrogate mother hired by a German Couple Mrs & Mr Jan Balaz.

What is surrogacy?  What is surrogate mother hood? Surrogacy can be defined in simple terms as hiring of a womb. In surrogate mother hood one women act as a surrogate or a replacement or a substitute or a proxy. Surrogate mothering can be accomplished in many ways. Most often the sperm is injected into the carrier by a procedure called artificial insemination. In this case surrogate mother is the genetic mother and the birth mother of the child. Less often, when the intended mother can produce fertile eggs but cannot carry a child to birth, then the couple needs to hire another woman, who will be the carrier of the baby to birth. This method is known as gestational surrogacy and was first performed in 1970. The first recognized surrogate mother arrangement was in 1976.

Surrogate arrangements are categorized as either commercial or altruistic. In commercial surrogacy, the surrogate is paid a fee plus any expenses incurred during pregnancy. In altruistic surrogacy, the surrogate is paid only for expense incurred or is not paid at all.  

Statistics show that between 1976 and 1988, about 600 babies were born in the US. By the end of 1992, estimated surrogate babies went up to 5000. As of today, 4.3 million babies were born only in USA. The issue of surrogate mother came to national attention in US in the 1980s with baby Mary Stern case. In 1984 a New Jersey couple Mr William Stern and Elizabeth Stern contracted to pay Mary whitehead to pay $14,000 for bearing their child to birth.  But Mary fled with the child to Florida. Later, in July 1985 police arrested Mary and returned the child to William and Elizabeth. The court of New Jersey also favoured the genetical parents. Most of the European countries banned surrogate motherhood except Britain, America, Australia and Switzerland.

In India, surrogacy was legalised in 2002. The first case in India was not a commercial surrogacy. A lady at the age of 52, became the surrogate mother for her daughter and her son-in-law who were residing in UK. It was purely a family affair. This was at the internationally reputed is Dr Nayana Patel's Kaival clinic in Gujarat. The 52 year old surrogate mother gave birth to her surrogate child, who in actual was her biological grandchild.

Initially surrogacy in India was used by non resident Indians only. Nowadays, Europeans are using these facilities in abundance.  Many Europeans and non resident Indians fly to India for this purpose. Indian surrogate mothers cost one third of what European surrogate mothers cost. Moreover, there is less fear of the surrogate not handing over the baby to the biological parents. There are several specialized clinics in Pune, Gujarat, and Andhra Pradesh. Dr Nayana Patel's Kaival clinic in Gujarat is full fledged and surrogate mothers stays in the clinic for 10 months. Between 2005 and 2006, the clinic delivered 35 babies. In 2007 the figure went up to 55 babies.

Coming to the commercials of the surrogacy business, sure, there is a lot of money involved.

Indian surrogate mothers cost between 250,000 rupees to 600,000 rupees. In India alone, it has grown up to a US$ 626 million business. To Dr Mrs Patel, this is only a helping hand to poor and downtrodden women in India. Around 95% of Indian surrogate women are from poor family. Of course, they are ready to take up surrogacy because they see this as an answer to the poverty they are suffering from. From this earning they can construct their own house, educate their children and have a better future.

India's health industry is already slated to be worth 2.3 billion dollars by 2012 by performing cost effective surgeries for foreigners. Dr Patelís view is that India can become a centre for "reproductive tourism" in the near future.

Surrogate motherhood has both supporters and opponents, each with strong arguments in their favor. A number of important questions lie at the heart of the debate over the ethics and legality of surrogacy: Does surrogacy necessarily involve the exploitation of the woman serving as the surrogate mother, or turn her into a commodity? What rights does the surrogate mother have? Is surrogacy equivalent to baby selling? Should brokers or third parties be allowed to make a profit from surrogacy arrangements?

Opponents of surrogacy claim that it is harmful to the surrogate mothers involved. This concept reduces women to becoming mere "vehicles" for producing offspring. Surrogate mothers are mistreated and exploited by those who pay them. Women activists oppose surrogate motherhood, fearing that it turns women into mere "incubators," who will be used and oppressed by society. Opponents of surrogacy view it as baby-selling.

Supporters for surrogate motherhood propose it as a humane solution to the problem of infertility. They note that infertility is common, affecting almost one out of six couples, and that surrogacy may represent the only option for some couples who wish to have children to whom they are genetically related. They also point out that infertility is likely to increase as more women enter the workforce and keep childbearing to a later age, when fertility problems are more common. Supporters also maintain that in a successful surrogacy arrangement, all parties benefit. The intended parents take home a cherished child, and the surrogate receives a monetary reward and the satisfaction of knowing that she has helped someone realize a special goal. Surrogacy cannot be seen as baby-selling. Baby selling is when you have a born child that is sold to another person. Here we are talking about agreements made before conception even occurred, where there is no existing child. Secondly, the genes, in the case of gestational surrogacy, are being provided by the couple that is hiring the surrogate, thus, in a sense, it is their genetic child.

I strongly believes that surrogacy is a noble act to couples who long for children, provided, dignity of women is maintained and that the remuneration goes directly to her. There should not be any brokers or dealers. There must be a clear cut rules and regulations.

To conclude, I would like to quote the words of The President of The United States Mr Barrack Obama that the world is changing. We need to accept the changes. Our conservative thinking should change. My personal feeling is that if a couple or a person is leading an unhappy life due to infertility, go for the proven technique which is legally accepted and remain happy for the rest of the life.
 

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He can be contacted at sunilkravi@yahoo.com

 
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