By Ila Ananya
Just a week ago, there was a shocking case of policemen in Hyderabad deciding to go and raid Sai Kiran Infertility Centre, where the reportedly found 45 surrogate mothers who’d been forced to stay there for the last nine months. The officials at the centre had been worried that the women would agree to be surrogate mothers and then ‘run away’.
Suddenly, the policemen had found themselves unsure of where to move the women they had ‘saved’ — something they obviously forgot when policemen went and raided another clinic in Bhongir, Telangana, on 23rd June. This time they found 50 surrogate mothers at Padmaja Fertility Centre, who’d been made to stay in a building next to the clinic.
The stories of both these clinics are startlingly similar. Sai Kiran Infertility Centre in Hyderabad, which didn’t have permission to take up surrogacies, had been keeping the women there, providing them with food and medicines, while claiming that they were there for ‘diet’ and ‘observation’. The women, who reportedly came from Delhi, Nagaland, Darjeeling, Telangana, and Andhra Pradesh, were reportedly given Rs 10,000 as allowance, and then paid Rs 2-3 lakh after the delivery, for which they were taken to a nearby government hospital. According to The New Indian Express, Task Force DCP Limba Reddy had also said that the centre would collect anything from between Rs 15 to 30 lakh from their clients, and found potential surrogate mothers through brokers. In Bhongir, the women who are reportedly from Telangana, and Maharashtra, were paid Rs 2 lakh, while the centre itself (which denies doing anything illegal) charged anything between Rs 5 lakh to Rs 10 lakh.
When the Sai Kiran case came to light, it had also thrown up many other similar rackets. According to Indian Express, a Medical Council meeting that took place some months ago had discussed how at least 30 women in another infertility centre in Uppal had been forced to live there for the duration of their pregnancy too. It was also reported that the police did know of other centres where women are being detained illegally — but refused to conduct raids like the one on Sai Kiran, because they don’t know where to relocate the confined surrogate mothers to. And while everyone applauded the police for their ‘rescue’ missions that they undertook anyway, this was probably something that should have been paid attention to.
But unbelievably, the police had called the pregnancies ‘illegal pregnancies’, claiming that they were now worried that the clients whose children these women were carrying, were not going to return because of the raid. The women in the Sai Kiran clinic had told The News Minute that they had known what they were doing when they agreed to live in the clinic — they didn’t want commercial surrogacy banned, but wanted better conditions for themselves. But days after the raid had happened, nobody knew what would happen to the women. The Telangana State Women’s Commission had only demanded to know what would happen to the women — until finally the Hyderabad High Court issued a notice to the State Government demanding that they ensure the wellbeing of the women who’d been ‘saved’. Perhaps this was something the policemen who raided the clinic in Bhongir should also have considered — there have been more than enough cases of things being done to ‘save’ women and children involved, without having a plan for them after.
Back when we had reported on the prevalence of ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome (OHSS) a possibly fatal side-affect that most women who went in for IVF treatment were not told about, we had also learnt that this was a high possibility even for surrogate mothers and egg donors. And considering that there were zero ethics involved in letting women going in for IVF choose for themselves after weighing all possibilities and side-effects, something like this could be completely ignored in commercial surrogacy. These two cases have only thrown up the urgent need for some kind of system both for the police and the clinics — something other than raids and uncertainty.