New Delhi, Jan 27 (Jagran News Network): The Union health ministry is awaiting approval of the law ministry on the finalised draft of the Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) Regulation Bill 2010, which states that a woman acting as surrogate mother in India cannot be less than 21 or over 35 years. She is also not allowed to give more than five live births, including her own children.

The Bill has incorporated several landmark stipulations. For instance, no surrogate mother shall undergo embryo transfer more than three times for the same couple. If a surrogate mother is married, the consent of her spouse is mandatory. Only Indian citizens can be considered for surrogacy. No ART bank or clinic can send an Indian citizen for surrogacy abroad. Strict confidentiality has to be maintained about the donor's identity, reported an English daily.

A would-be surrogate mother will be duty bound not to engage in any act that could harm the foetus during pregnancy and the baby after birth.

Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) director general Dr V M Katoch said, "This is a very important Bill. It has been finalised and sent to the law ministry for its approval. The department of health research will be responsible for the Bill's execution. We are following up with the law ministry on a weekly basis."

Once the Bill gets the assent, it will become binding on a surrogate mother to hand over all her filial rights over the baby. And, the birth certificate of the baby born through surrogacy will bear the name of the individual or individuals, who had commissioned the surrogacy, as parents. The commissioning parents could be a single man or woman, a married couple or an unmarried couple, who are in a live-in relationship.

"Since we have defined couple as two persons living together and having legal sex, lesbians and gays won't be allowed to use ART. Once India makes these relationship permissible, lesbians and gays can also go for IVF," said Dr RS Sharma, deputy director general of division of reproductive health and nutrition, ICMR.

He added, "Live-in couples can go for IVF only of the woman cannot biologically bear a child, or it is risky for her to bear one. No ART clinic shall consider conception by surrogacy for patients for whom it may normally be possible to carry a baby to term. A doctor will have to first certify that a conception would lead to undesirable medical implications."

The commissioning parents will be legally bound to accept the custody of the child irrespective of any congenital abnormality. Refusal will be considered a cognisable offense under this Act.

The Bill makes another very important point: No woman can be treated with gametes or embryos derived from the gametes of more than one man or woman during any one treatment cycle. An ART clinic cannot mix semen from two individuals before use.

"Now, if the sperm count is less in a semen sample, it is mixed with multiple samples for a good count. This is unethical, and won't be allowed," Dr Sharma said.