The unregulated commercial surrogacy of India has marked the emergence of a new trend in the Indian liberal surrogacy regime with the practice of Twiblings or twin siblings. Twiblings is deemed as the new feature or the unique selling point (USP) of India is commercial and liberal surrogacy regime.
The term twiblings takes after the combination of two words twins and siblings , it refers to the process of hiring or availing the services of two surrogate mothers at the same time by the same intending couples for increasing or maximizing the chances of successful birth of more than one surrogate child at one single instance itself.
Indian commercial surrogacy taking much liberties and unfair advantage of the unregulated surrogacy and absence of monitoring bodies have led to developing this practice of twiblings , besides , it must not to be forgotten that the large scale commercialization of surrogacy as an industry , vested interest of clinic and the profit motives of the clinic in order to increase their clients base and to satisfy their personal choices have established twibling as a the new trend of Indian surrogacy.
Presently in India, surrogacy remains outside the purview of any binding legislation or effective regulations and also outside the purview of any monitoring body and law enforcing agency, the law on surrogacy, the Assisted Reproductive Technologies ( Regulation) Bill 2010 drafted by Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India is lying in pendency and awaiting enforcement, the draft is being revised as the ART Bill 2013 with necessary regulatory measures to protect the interest of stakeholders. Meanwhile surrogacy in India is governed only by the individual surrogacy agreements entered by the parties namely the intending couples and the surrogate mothers . It must be noted that there is no uniform pattern of such surrogacy agreements and these surrogacy agreements are largely customized as per the personal preference of Intending couple catering to the personal interests and needs of the intending couples. The commercialization of surrogacy has caused surrogacy to be channelized as per the market techniques of demand and supply and to suit their client interests much to the disregard of law.
Many foreign intending couples are visiting India to have twiblings in order to have maximize their chances of parentage as well as to have more than one child at a time , many find it much economical and manageable scheme as it saves their repeated travel , cost and time by one go.
Though it is strictly prohibited under the ART Bill ( Section 34 ( 20), (21) ) which strictly prohibits the use of two surrogates at the same time by same intending couples as well as the simultaneous transfer of embryos in the two surrogate mothers at the same time. But the fact that the ART Bill is in pendency and not enforced has resulted in the frequency of this practice to appease the foreign intending couples.
It was recently reported that a British couples visited Mumbai , India in the year 2013, November and hired two surrogate mother simultaneously in order to have 4 surrogate children, this has given rise to the coining of new terminology twiblings or twins siblings , as a new feature of surrogacy in India (Bioedge, 2 Nov 2013 ) in this case 6 embryos were created and three embryos were implanted in two surrogate mothers respectively to increase the success rate of surrogacy and to ensure birth of more than one surrogate child as per the wishes of the intending couples.
Similarly, another case of another twibling in India was reported , a Canadian businesswoman from Toronto visited Anand in Gujarat in year 2012 and engaged two surrogate mothers at the same time in order to have twins both born of the same sample of sperms from her husband which was implanted in the womb of two surrogate mothers at the same time resulting the birth of surrogate twins or twiblings (localuknews.UK, October 28, 2013)
It has been found that Twiblings is associated with the practice of multiple embryo transfers or multiple pregnancies among surrogate mothers which are highly dangerous to the health of surrogate mothers. Multiple pregnancies are linked to increasing the complications for the surrogate mother including late miscarriage, high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia and other ill health conditions as well as the surrogate child is also exposed to a range of health risks including stillbirth, neonatal death and disability for the child (BBC Asian Network, 28 October 2013 )
The practice of twiblings has brought forth some of the latent lacunas in the Indian surrogacy laws which remain un adequately addressed under the ART Bill. The Bill does not stipulate the maximum or the minimum number of embryos to be transferred, the number of IVF cycles a the gestational carrier or surrogate mother may undergo. Such gap in law coupled with the lack of licensing or registration of ART clinics as well as lack of a monitoring body overseeing the conduct of ART Clinics in India raises alarming concern for the reproductive health of surrogate mothers.
Health professionals have raised questions over this trend as it involves serious health impairment and risks associated with multiple pregnancies which can even lead to death or maternal mortality of the surrogate mothers.
Many nations strictly prohibit multiple embryo transfer under their respective laws and regulations , in many surrogacy legislations or regulations , UK under Human Fertilization and Embryology Act 2008 bans twiblings.
Thus , the early enactment of law along with inclusion of necessary provisions to address these concerns are highly imperative. It may also be stated that considering the large scale misuse of surrogacy, there should be penal measures associated with these provision in order to ensure strict control or curbing of this practice at the earliest.
(Sonali Kusum is a Ph.D Research Scholar at National Law School of India University Bangalore. She holds BA LLB, LLM ( Human Rights), UGC ( NET) , PG Dip. Social Work.)