New Delhi, Aug 4: Women in India cannot act as surrogates for more than three successful births, including of their own children, and it would be mandatory for surrogate mothers to have a minimum two-year interval between two deliveries to ensure they remain healthy.
These landmark provisions are part of the proposed draft Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) Bill which the government plans to bring to the Cabinet before introducing in Parliament for passage.
Any contravention of provisions of this bill would attract severe penalties.
The bill, a first in India's history, seeks to monitor the unregulated sector of ART clinics, which offer infertility solutions to couples at huge costs, besides preventing commercial surrogacy and safeguarding the rights of surrogate mothers and children born out of surrogacy arrangements.
An estimated 15 per cent couples worldwide are infertile, making ART services critical.
The draft ART Bill seeks to fill these gaps and addresses "ethical, legal issues related to gamete donation, surrogacy and nationality of the child born out of ART."
Top sources in the Health Ministry said the bill had been sent for comments to ministries and replies were expected by August 5, after which the final draft bill will be prepared.
The bill is significant as currently there is no supervisory body in the country under which ART clinics offering services, including surrogacy to infertile couples, can be placed and there is no system to monitor these services and ensure that surrogate mothers are not exploited.
According to draft bill provisions, no woman less than 21 years of age and over 35 years can act as a surrogate mother.
The bill also, for the first time, states conditions for foreign couples seeking to hire surrogates in India.
"Several issues such as ethical, moral, monetary and safety, have been raised in this area by various sectors of the society as there is no law to regulate the issues of surrogacy in India," a Health ministry note states.