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Lok Sabha passes bill to regulate IVF clinics

Context:

The Lok Sabha passed the The Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill, 2020 that proposes the establishment of a national registry and registration authority for all clinics and medical professionals serving in the field.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice and Governance (Government Policies and Initiatives)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART)
  2. The Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill, 2020
  3. Concerns with the ART Bill

Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART)

  • Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) includes fertility treatments that handle both a woman’s egg and a man’s sperm.
  • It works by removing eggs from a woman’s body and mixing them with sperm to make embryos. The embryos are then put back in the woman’s body.
  • In Vitro fertilization (IVF) is the most common and effective type of ART.
  • ART procedures sometimes use donor eggs, donor sperm, or previously frozen embryos. It may also involve a surrogate carrier.

India and ART

  • India has become one of the major centres of this global fertility industry, with reproductive medical tourism becoming a significant activity.
  • This has also introduced a plethora of legal, ethical and social issues; yet, there is no standardisation of protocols and reporting is still very inadequate

The Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill, 2020

Defining ART

  • The Bill defines ART to include all techniques that seek to obtain a pregnancy by handling the sperm or the oocyte (immature egg cell) outside the human body and transferring the gamete or the embryo into the reproductive system of a woman.
  • Examples of ART services include gamete (sperm or oocyte) donation, in-vitro-fertilisation (fertilising an egg in the lab), and gestational surrogacy (the child is not biologically related to surrogate mother).
  • ART services will be provided through:
    1. ART clinics, which offer ART related treatments and procedures, and
    2. ART banks, which store and supply gametes.

Provisions of the Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill, 2020

  • The Bill provides that every ART clinic and bank must be registered under the National Registry of Banks and Clinics of India.
  • The National Registry will be established under the Bill and will act as a central database with details of all ART clinics and banks in the country.
  • State governments will appoint registration authorities for facilitating the registration process.
  • Clinics and banks will be registered only if they adhere to certain standards (specialised manpower, physical infrastructure, and diagnostic facilities). 
  • ART procedures can only be carried out with the written informed consent of both the party seeking ART services as well as the donor.
  • A clinic is prohibited from offering to provide a child of pre-determined sex.
  • The Bill also requires checking for genetic diseases before the embryo implantation.
  • A child born through ART will be deemed to be a biological child of the commissioning couple and will be entitled to the rights and privileges available to a natural child of the commissioning couple.  A donor will not have any parental rights over the child.
  • The Bill provides that the National and State Boards for Surrogacy constituted under the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019 will act as the National and State Board respectively for the regulation of ART services.
  • Key powers and functions of the National Board include:
    • advising the central government on ART related policy matters,
    • reviewing and monitoring the implementation of the Bill,
    • formulating code of conduct and standards for ART clinics and banks, and
    • overseeing various bodies to be constituted under the Bill.
  • Offences under the Bill include:
    1. abandoning, or exploiting children born through ART,
    2. selling, purchasing, trading, or importing human embryos or gametes,
    3. using intermediates to obtain donors,
    4. exploiting commissioning couple, woman, or the gamete donor in any form, and
    5. transferring the human embryo into a male or an animal.

Concerns with the ART Bill

  1. The Bill allows for a married heterosexual couple and a woman above the age of marriage to use ARTs and excludes single men, cohabiting heterosexual couples and LGBTQ+ individuals and couples from accessing ARTs.
  2. The Bill seems to violate Article 14 of the Constitution and the Right to Privacy jurisprudence of Puttaswamy, 2017, where the Supreme Court held that “the sanctity of marriage, the liberty of procreation, the choice of a family life and the dignity of being” concerned all individuals irrespective of their social status and were aspects of privacy.
  3. Unlike the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, (SRB) 2019, there is no prohibition on foreign citizens accessing the ARTs but not all of the Indian citizens which fails to reflect the true spirit of the Constitution.
  4. The Bill restricts egg donation to a married woman with a child (at least three years old). Even here, egg donation as an altruistic act is possible only once a woman has fulfilled her duties to the patriarchal institution of marriage.
  5. The Bill does little to protect the egg donor. Harvesting of eggs is an invasive process which, if performed incorrectly, can result in death.
  6. The Bill requires an egg donor’s written consent but does not provide for her counselling or the ability to withdraw her consent before or during the procedure.
  7. A woman receives no compensation or reimbursement of expenses for loss of salary, time and effort. Failing to pay for bodily services constitutes unfree labour, which is prohibited by Article 23 of the Constitution.
  8. The commissioning parties only need to obtain an insurance policy in her name for medical complications or death with no amount or duration specified.
  9. The Bill requires pre-implantation genetic testing and where the embryo suffers from “pre-existing, heritable, life-threatening or genetic diseases”, it can be donated for research with the commissioning parties’ permission. These disorders are not specified and the Bill risks promoting an impermissible programme of eugenics.
  10. Children born from ART do not have the right to know their parentage, which is crucial to their best interests and was protected under previous drafts.
  11. Although the Bill and the SRB regulate ARTs and surrogacy, respectively, there is considerable overlap between both sectors and they do not work in tandem. Both Bills set up multiple bodies for registration which will result in duplication.

-Source: The Hindu

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