The Lankan Guide To Surrogacy - Cosmopolitan Sri Lanka

The Lankan Guide To Surrogacy

There's a lot more to surrogacy than meets the eye!

Thilini, 35, always wanted to have a family, but the struggle was real. She and her husband tried everything to conceive to no avail. After two failed artificial inseminations, a few more failed In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) treatments followed by a list of medical jargon as to why she can’t get pregnant, her doctors advised the couple to consider adoption. But, all she could hear was how she was not good enough to be a mother. Thilini felt ashamed and guilty. Surrounded by pitiful eyes and gossip, her world was falling apart slowly, until she met the girl who agreed to carry their child.

LET’S TALK ABOUT SURROGACY

Surrogacy is a method of assisted reproductive technology where a woman agrees to carry a pregnancy for another couple, who will become the parent(s) of the newborn*. This is often supported by a legal agreement. Depending on the situation, it will include compensation to the surrogate by the intended parents (i.e. Commercial Surrogacy) or it will be purely out of compassion, (i.e. Altruistic Surrogacy) mostly offered by a close friend or relative.

THE TYPES OF SURROGACY 

Traditional Surrogacy 
The intended male parent’s (or an eligible male donor’s) sperm is used to fertilize the surrogate’s egg. Insemination can happen either naturally (sexual intercourse with the surrogate; mutually agreed by all parties concerned) or artificially (artificial insemination). This will result in the infant being genetically related to both the intended father, as well as the surrogate mother. (If a donor’s sperm is used, the baby is not genetically related to either intended parent).

Gestational Surrogacy 

The intended mother’s (or an eligible female donor’s) egg and intended father’s (or an eligible male donor’s) sperm is fertilized and implanted into the surrogate using IVF. In this case, the child is genetically unrelated to the surrogate. (If the embryo is created using a donor egg and donor sperm, the newborn will not be genetically related to either intended parent or surrogate).

QUESTIONS TO ASK 

Can you consider IVF?
If a woman is physically healthy, surrogacy will not be the first option for a couple to consider. However, if you are experiencing difficulties in getting pregnant, the countless visits to the doctor and the overdose of hormones you’re expected to take can be overwhelming. After all, there’s only so much of IVF you can tolerate.

Is adoption better?
Usually, when you and your Significant Other decide that it’s the right time to have a child, it’s because you want to take a part of each other and create the miracle of life. But, when you’re unable to conceive, adoption is often considered. You also can’t fault the fact that you’d be giving a child a loving family. In Sri Lanka, a child can be adopted only upon a court order (an adoption order) which is, regrettably, a long and complicated process.

While adoption is a way for a couple to raise a family and provide unconditional love to a child, it’s perfectly alright to want to have your own baby. It’s important to remember that every couples’ desires are different and that’s totally okay.

Do you have any control during the procedure?
When you and your partner’s (as the intended parents) eggs and sperm are used to create the embryo, the child is genetically unrelated to the surrogate mother. This means your child will be safe from any genetically transferred diseases or genetic disorders from the surrogate’s bloodline. Additionally, if you maintain a healthy relationship with the surrogate mother during her term, you can ensure your child is both nourished and nurtured adequately. If you decide to adopt you may not have this option, as you’ll have no say in the child until the court order is granted.

Is surrogacy high risk?
“The risks of surrogacy are no more than the risk of going through IVF using your own eggs,” confirmed Dr. Nilani Kaluarachchi, MB ChB (UK), D.R.C.O.G.(UK), DFFP(UK). “Every woman puts herself through an element of risk during pregnancy and every one in four (25%) women are prone to have a miscarriage irrespective of how you conceive.” These facts aren’t different for surrogacy.

Is financial compensation unethical?
Every pregnancy subjects a woman to an element of risk, discomfort and pain. If you’re willing to carry someone else’s child for nine months and put your body and mind through it all, it’s completely justifiable to be compensated for providing that service.

Can this be considered as adultery?
Adultery, by definition, is the voluntary act of sexual activities between a married person with someone who is not their spouse. Surrogacy is performed as a typical IVF procedure which occurs in a medical environment with no sexual activities whatsoever. Adultery is also defined by each couple according to their mutual understanding. Thereby, if all related parties have granted their voluntary consent, no form of adultery will be committed.

SURROGACY IN SRI LANKA

Did you know that Sri Lanka is becoming a popular hub for surrogacy? Despite the topic being considered taboo and controversial, it’s happening at an increasing rate right under our noses. But, what’s worse is the lack of knowledge on the subject.

“Although it is quite difficult to obtain specific statistics, its popularity in Sri Lanka can be observed, as persons willing to contribute as egg/sperm donors. The surrogate mothers and intended parents are creating web pages, and publishing their details. Sri Lanka is becoming a popular destination for surrogacy because of the lack of legal provisions regulating this practice and the inexpensive medical procedures involved,” stated Danushika Abeyrathna, Attorney-at-Law, Lecturer (Probationary), Faculty of Law, University of Colombo**

By not acknowledging a certain matter by law, does not make the matter non-existent. It’ll only set a precedent for unregulated activities to continue, leading to exploitation. The core is about creating life. It’s meant to be positive and beautiful. A couple who can’t have kids of their own can start a family now. However, as much as there’s beauty in this world, there’s also darkness,

WE NEED SURROGACY LAWS 

Surrogacy is an emotional decision. Whether it’s the intended parents or the surrogate, each party is driven by a whirlwind of emotions to make such a committed decision. However, as we all know, human emotions are volatile, and at a time where you’re ruled by your emotions rather than logic, the best solution is for the law to intervene to ensure all parties are protected and treated equally.

But, in the absence of the law, many unjust scenarios can develop: The surrogate may refuse to give up the child, leaving the intended parents helpless. The intended parents can change their mind and refuse to take the kid, leaving the surrogate with an unrelated infant to look after. Mutually agreed-upon compensation can be wrongfully denied. In a situation where either party goes back on their word, the law needs to be present to solve the problem fairly.

The worst version of someone surfaces at a point of desperation, and when there is no law to regulate or penalise wrongful conduct, people resort to unacceptable things. For example, aggressive family members can force a woman to become a surrogate for financial compensation, agencies can hire helpless women and exploit their bodies through surrogacy, which is more or less an act of child trafficking. Driven by desperation, women will allow harassment for the sake of survival.

In terms of the child, there lies the question of who will be her (or his) legal guardian. Is the biological mother decided based on whose egg it is or who carried the child? In the event the surrogate is the legal guardian, how can parental rights be transferred to the intended parents? In an instance where the intended parents aren’t Sri Lankan citizens, which nationality will be assigned to the child? All of these questions (and more) will remain unanswered with no current legal procedure. Nothing is safeguarding proper procedure, leaving a gap in the law for people to exploit and wrongfully conduct surrogacy.

THE LAWS IN OTHER COUNTRIES 

If you look at a helicopter view of the surrogacy laws across other regions, you will see that a significant amount of countries have legally regularised surrogacy as they see fit. It is evident that surrogacy is not a taboo subject anymore—it happens worldwide, including Sri Lanka. But, regularising it will prevent a lot of unnecessary complexities. Countries such as Russia, Ukraine and Georgia have legalised both altruistic and commercial surrogacy, while countries like Germany, Spain, Italy, Pakistan and Finland (among others), have illegalised all forms of surrogacy. In the meantime, countries such as India, Australia, New Zealand, Netherlands etc. have legally permitted altruistic surrogacy, while banning commercial surrogacy. Nevertheless, what all these countries have in common is that they have acknowledged and regulated the conduct of surrogacy.

In Sri Lanka, it’s vital for surrogacy laws to be implemented so that each party involved is protected by the law preventing any form of wrongful conduct, exploitation and legal uncertainties.

A SOLID SUPPORT SYSTEM 

It is only natural for you to be emotionally attached to the life that you’re carrying and nourishing for nine long months. The high levels of oestrogen and progesterone that’s produced during pregnancy (that makes a woman exceptionally emotional), doesn’t help the situation either. Once an involuntary bond is created between the surrogate and the life that is growing within, the logic of it not being your biological child will gradually disappear. This will make giving up the child so much harder causing an emotional toll on the surrogate.

Postnatal depression is also a common problem after giving birth. Having to deal with the loss of a child you just gave birth to and had a bond with, along with possible depression, will be traumatic and overwhelming.

Surrogacy is carried out by IVF which is not always a guaranteed success. There can be instances where the surrogate doesn’t conceive or will go through a miscarriage during some point of the pregnancy. While this is a common occurrence in assisted reproduction, it doesn’t make it any easier on the intended parents. Continuous failure can take a lot out of a person leaving you exhausted and deflated.

While family and friends can be a great support system, there are instances where their encouragement might not be sufficient for recovery. So before the situation becomes critical, it’s best to get professional help. Psychological therapy or even medical assistance, if required, is the best way to guarantee the problem doesn’t become more severe and long term. Surrogacy in Sri Lanka isn’t going away anytime soon, so a strong support system must be in place to make the process easier.

EDUCATING THE SOCIETY 

Lankan society can be harsh and judgemental, but, when there’s a lack of education, the attacks can become worse. While controversies will always be present, it can be controlled by properly disseminating information, making people aware of all the possibilities.

Every couple has the right to do what they’d like with their eggs and sperms. As long as it’s consensual, no harm is done to anyone, all parties are treated fairly, and they agree upon a mutual understanding, everyone should be given the right to choose.

Look at your options
If you’re contemplating surrogacy, it’s always best to weigh your options carefully before making a decision. 

Understand the complexities. 
Surrogacy is no walk in the park and you must be aware of all its intricacies. Don’t let a financial crisis, for example, dictate your judgement. Learn everything on the subject. This is a no-brainer, but you need to have all the information on hand before you make an educated decision. From legal procedures to medical difficulties to emotional turmoil, it’s necessary to prep yourself for all eventualities should they arise.

Figure out your finances.
If you’re hoping to involve a surrogate mother, chances are this is going to be a costly affair. Look into your funds and ensure you and your S.Ocan sufficiently cover costs before and after the arrival of your bundle of joy.

 

Movies to watch on the complexities of surrogacy:            

The Surrogate (1995) 

The Baby Maker (1970)

Mala Aai Vahhaychy (2011)

Books to read:

The House Of Hidden Mothers by Meera Syal

Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner

Dear Thing by Julie Cohen

 

When Phoebe from Friends suddenly wanted to keep one of the triplets she carried for her brother, it wasn’t on the script as a joke. It happens on a larger scale around the world.

 

Surrogacy is a generous act that someone can do for another. But, everything white has a dark side to it, too. You must understand there’s a very fine line between right and wrong. Whatever the consequences are, at the end of the day, a beautiful life is brought into this world. So, it’s our responsibility to make sure that this new life, and everyone who contributed to bringing it into this world, are protected, equally.

Readers weigh in…

“I believe surrogacy is a good thing as long as it’s managed and governed in a way that ensures all parties involved are unharmed, both physically and mentally.” – Haven, 31

“You can’t put a price on ‘motherhood’. Carrying a baby is as integral as raising a child. But our system now pays for services like babysitting and even foster care. So parenting is getting commercialised. Commercialised surrogacy is another step forward.” – Devrangee, 24

“While I’m capable of carrying a child by nature, there are some incapable of doing so. I believe it’s my right to provide another person with that opportunity if I want to. Hopefully, if whoever I give birth to does good in this world, I can be happy that unknowingly I was a part of that.” – Hansani, 22

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