Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill listed in Lok Sabha: Here's how it will regulate fertility treatments

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Apart from the Farm Laws Repeal Bill, 2021 that was passed amid protests by Opposition members,  the Lok Sabha is scheduled to table the Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill, 2020, on the first day of the Winter Session on November 29.

The Union government had approved the Bill, which aims to regulate fertility treatments, allow safe and ethical use of Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART), and protect women and children from exploitation, in February last year.

The Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on September, 14, 2020 following which it was referred to the Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare’s. The Committee’s report was tabled in the Lok Sabha on March 19, 2021. Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya is scheduled to move the Bill in Lok Sabha again on Monday.

Follow Parliament Winter Session LIVE Updates here

Here is a primer on the Bill and how it intends to regulate fertility treatments across the country:

Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART)

Assisted Reproductive Technology refers to a range of medical interventions that aid reproduction, including procedures such as in-vitro fertilisation and oocyte donation.

The Bill defines ARTs as all the techniques that seek to ensure pregnancy by handling the sperm or the oocyte outside the human body and transferring the gamete or the embryo into the reproductive system of a woman, according to PRS Legislative Research. Examples of ART services include gamete (sperm or oocyte) donation, in-vitro-fertilisation, and gestational surrogacy.

National and the State Boards

As per the provisions of the Bill. a National Board will be constituted to lay down the code of conduct to be observed by those working at clinics, set the minimum standards of physical infrastructure, laboratory, diagnostic equipment and manpower to be employed by clinics and banks.

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Similarly, States and Union Territories will constitute State Boards and State Authorities within three months of the notification by the Centre. A State Board will have the responsibility of ensuring the policies and plans laid by the National Board for clinics are followed in the States and UTs.

Regulating ART clinics and banks

The Bill also provides for the setting up of a National Registry and Registration Authority to maintain a Central database and assist the National Board in its functioning.

Every ART clinic and bank must be registered under the National Registry of Banks and Clinics of India, according to the provisions of the Bill.  The National Registry established under the Bill will act as a central database with details of clinics and banks across the country.

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State and UT governments will appoint registration authorities to facilitate the registration process. Clinics and banks will be registered only if they adhere to certain standards (specialised manpower, physical infrastructure and diagnostic facilities). The registration will be valid for five years and can be renewed for a further five years.  An entity’s registration may be cancelled or suspended if it contravenes the provisions of the Bill.

Rules for ART service providers

ART procedures can only be carried out with the written informed consent of both the person seeking ART services as well as the gamete donor. The party seeking ART services will be required to provide insurance coverage in favour of the oocyte donor for any loss, damage or death of the donor.

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In addition, a clinic is prohibited from offering to provide a child of pre-determined sex. The Bill also requires checking for genetic diseases before embryo implantation, according to PRS Legislative Research.

No donor rights over the child

A child born through ART will be deemed to be the biological child of the commissioning couple and will be entitled to the rights and privileges available to a natural child of the commissioning couple.  A gamete donor will have no parental rights over the child.

Punishments and penalties

Abandoning or exploiting children born through ART; selling, purchasing, trading, or importing human embryos or gametes; using intermediates to obtain donors; exploiting the commissioning couple, woman or the gamete donor in any form; and transferring the human embryo into a male or an animal will be considered offences under the law, once enacted.

Those found guilty will be punishable with a fine of Rs 5-10 lakh for the first violation. For subsequent contraventions, these offences will be punishable with imprisonment for a term of 8-12 years, and a fine of Rs 10-20 lakh.

Any clinic or bank advertising or offering sex-selective ART will be punishable with 5-10 years’ imprisonment, or a Rs 10-25 lakh  fine, or both, as per the rules.

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