Fertility clinics set to come under the scanner

Panel set up to help rein in ART centres to ensure women are not exploited, work on bringing IVF clinics under PC-PNDT Act

Fertility clinics that help conduct surrogacy are all set to come under the scanner, with the state setting up a 10-member committee to study issues related to it. Such centres would also be brought under the ambit of Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PC-PNDT) Act, T C Benjamin, Additional Chief Secretary (Health) told The Indian Express.

The focus of the committee will be on introducing a legislation that aims to regulate the Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) centres to check that women are not discriminated against. It has been found that many young unmarried women are being lured to rent their womb in lieu of money. "Though a boon, surrogacy is also leading to the exploitation of women, mostly due to its commercial nature of usage without a proper regulatory framework," Benjamin said.

However, along with the regulation for ART centres, experts will also work out a schedule where tabs will be kept on In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) centres so that the technology is not misused at the level of conception in the laboratory. "At the pre-conception level also, there is a possibility that the technology can be misused to determine the sex of the child. It can be a backdoor way of ensuring that the offspring is male," Benjamin said.

"We cannot rule out this possibility and hence the fertility centres will be brought under the PC-PNDT Act," he added.

The Act covers four types of health centres ó genetic counselling, laboratories, genetic clinics and imaging centres. At present, IVF centres do not come under the Act. Dr P K Shah, president of the Federation of Gynaecological and Obstetric Surgeons of India and member of the committee, said the government had proposed a regulatory draft Bill on surrogacy. "We have held a meeting and will discuss the pros and cons of bringing these ART centres under the ambit of the PC-PNDT act as well," he said.

IVF consultant Dr Sunita Tandulwadkar, however, pointed out that fertility clinics without genetic laboratories could not pre-determine the sex of the child by examining the embryo.

The state may consider introducing such a Bill in the Assembly once the expert panel submits its findings on formulating surrogacy-related laws.

The state will formally request the Centre to expedite the process of tabling the draft Bill in Parliament, which has been pending since 2010. Issues pertaining to public health fall under the concurrent list of the Constitution, allowing Maharashtra to initiate steps to enact a law. "Since a surrogate mother is under risk to deliver someone else's baby, there is a need for regulating the costs attached to the pregnancies and even safety of the woman," Benjamin added.

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