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Hyderabad Raid on Surrogacy Clinic Highlights a Legal Void

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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.

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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.

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Topics:  Telangana   Hyderabad   surrogacy 

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