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India Imposes Surrogacy Freeze on Australian Couples

Stephanie March reports India is placing a freeze on surrogacy for Australian couples in light of recent story of the Australian couple who abandoned their child with their surrogate mother.


CHRIS UHLMANN: Childless Australian couples looking for surrogate mothers in India are being denied visas.

Surrogacy advocates say India has effectively frozen them out following recent revelations a child was abandoned in India by an Australian couple.

The Indian government says it now wants Australia to provide much clearer assurances about the welfare of a child born to Indian surrogates and that includes a guarantee they will be granted Australian citizenship.

South Asia correspondent Stephanie March reports from New Delhi.

STEPHANIE MARCH: India’s surrogacy industry is established, cheap, and is often the first choice for childless Australian couples. Last year Indian surrogates produced about 200 babies for Australians.

But in the past few weeks India has started refusing visas to Australian couples wanting to embark on the surrogacy process.

Sam Everingham is from Surrogacy Australia.

SAM EVERINGHAM: For those who have got pregnant surrogates we have seen a lot of anxiety and a lot of panic around getting a visa in time.

STEPHANIE MARCH: The Indian consulate in Sydney says the cause of the current visa delays is over its concern for the welfare of surrogate children born for Australian parents.

It was recently revealed that in 2012 an Indian surrogate gave birth to twins for an Australian couple who left one baby behind, saying they could only afford to take one child.

Indian authorities say they have asked Australia for clearer guarantees that children born under surrogacy arrangements will automatically be granted Australian nationality.

In an email to surrogacy advocates the consulate said.

EXTRACT FROM AN EMAIL FROM INDIAN CONSULATE: In the recent past, there have been instances where children or twins born out of surrogacy have not been taken by the intended parents to Australia. We feel that there is a lot of uncertainty about the fate of children, single or multiple, born out of surrogacy.

STEPHANIE MARCH: Sam Everingham says the Australian Government needs to do whatever it takes to convince India to restart the visa process.

He’s also concerned many couples in the early stages of the surrogacy process will give up hope and go elsewhere.

SAM EVERINGHAM: It’s not a good feeling for parents who’ve spent years often coming to a decision and chosen an agency and now are told well we’re not going to grant you that visa. It’s meant we’ve seen a number of parents starting to consider other destinations with far lesser track records in surrogacy.

STEPHANIE MARCH: What are the problems with going to countries where regulation is not as good as countries like India?

SAM EVERINGHAM: Much less screening of parents before they engage, often no screening at all. There is no guarantee sometimes that a child will be able to exit that country.

STEPHANIE MARCH: But the Indian surrogacy industry also has its own challenges. There are industry guidelines, but no laws to enforce them.

Delhi-based surrogacy lawyer Anurag Chawla says until the Indian government enacts laws to govern the industry problems will continue.

ANURAG CHAWLA: Because the clinic feels that they can do anything and just say whenever they’re caught that there is no law, so it’s a grey area, we can do this.

STEPHANIE MARCH: The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has not responded to the ABC’s request for comment.


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