Last week, the Indian government unveiled a draft law that would ban commercial surrogacy in an effort to protect young would-be-surrogates from exploitation.
If Parliament approves the measure, it would not only prevent foreigners from seeking an Indian surrogate, but also Indian single parents and gay people.
Surrogacy would effectively be an option for straight Indian couples that had been together for more than five years and then only by using a close family relative as a surrogate.
India has long been called the "surrogacy hub" of the world, with infertile couples from all over the globe flocking to its cities in search of women to carry their children.
Over time, the business has grown to be worth more than $1 billion, which has led many to question the ethics of this unregulated industry.
“This is a revolutionary step for women’s welfare,” said Sushma Swaraj, India’s foreign minister, who drafted the new surrogacy bill. “Many so-called childless couples were misusing the wombs of poor women.”
For Swaraj, this misuse included forcing illiterate women to sign surrogacy contracts they could not fully understand, keeping surrogates locked up in guarded guest houses with little to no social interaction with the outside world and refusing to provide care for surrogate mothers who had medical complications after birth.
By restricting surrogacy to close relatives of the women, the Indian government hopes to curtail exploitation and empower young surrogates.
Not all are seeing the bill as a progressive step forward, however.
“A ban is an overreaction and difficult to implement. When you ban something, you just drive the whole business underground,” said Ranjana Kumari, who heads the Center for Social Research.
“We lobbied for safety mechanisms that would regulate the practice and guarantee the rights of surrogate mothers," Kumari continued. "We did not want poor and uneducated women to be at the mercy of middlemen. We wanted certain responsibilities put on doctors as well.”
If passed, the bill will go into effect in 10 months, to ensure that women who are already pregnant are not effected.
In addition to restricting surrogacy access, the law would carry a 10-year prison sentence for clinicians who perform illegal surrogacy operations and would require clinics to maintain better documentation of surrogacy practices.
h/t: ABC News