New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government is all set to introduce the Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill 2019, in the next session of Parliament, which will cap the age limit of women seeking to undergo in-vitro fertilisation to get pregnant (IVF).
According to the draft of the Bill, the maximum age limit of women who want to conceive through IVF should be 50 years, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan told ThePrint.
Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) includes artificial insemination, IVF and surrogacy. The bill seeks to regulate ART clinics, monitor labs associated with the technology and provide them with licences on the basis of certain fixed criteria.
“The bill will be introduced in Parliament after its draft is approved by the Ministry of Law and Justice, and the Cabinet,” Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said.
On this, Harsh Vardhan said: “The proposed legislation will be quite useful in checking the misuse of ART.” This apart, it will also help in curbing exploitation of couples facing infertility, he added.
The ART bill was first drafted in 2017 but was not tabled. The ART bill 2019 is a modified version of the 2017 bill, according to sources.
The government has already introduced the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019 in the Lok Sabha in July, which states that only close relatives will be permitted to act as surrogates to infertile couples for “ethical altruistic” reasons.
‘Need to have guidelines for couples seeking to use IVF’
The medical fraternity says that IVF treatment to women above the age of 50 amounts to gross misuse of ART. They said there should be an age limit for women who want to conceive through IVF.
Dr Shivani Sachdeva, director of SCI IVF Hospital in Delhi, told ThePrint: “To help any woman become a mother at such an advanced stage is indeed a misuse of this technology.”
She said a woman is required to keep a baby in her womb for nine months and, hence, it is very important for her to be healthy. “When there is a fixed age criteria for parents wanting to adopt a child, then the maximum age of the woman who wants to become a mother with the help of IVF should also be determined,” she added.
Stating that the government needs to create guidelines for couples seeking to use IVF, Sachdeva said: “We live in a society where the desire to become a mother is ingrained in every woman and she can go to any extent to get that maternal bliss. In such a scenario, if there is no guideline from the government, then we doctors should come forward to draw a line.”
Dr M. Gauri Devi, president of the Indian Fertility Society, said: “According to Chapter 4, Section 37, Sub-Section 7-A of the 2017 version of the ART Bill, the minimum age required for becoming a mother with the help of ART should be 18 years and the maximum age should not be more than 45 years.”
Dr (Col) Pankaj Talwar, secretary general of the Indian Fertility Society, said the 2017 bill was “amended” to increase the age limit to 50 years.
Dr Archana Dhawan Bajaj, who is an obesity and IVF specialist at Nurture IVF Center, said, “No woman needs to be encouraged to become a mother at such an advanced age. The ideal cut-off age for IVF is 47-50, but if the woman is extremely fit, then this age limit can be raised to 52-53 years.”
Dr Anup Gupta, a Delhi-based IVF expert, said, “74 years is too much. This is not an age to become a mother.” He was, however, quick to add that this is an “age of revolution” and “a childless couple can go to any extent to fulfil their dream of having a child”.
“Until the government comes up with a detailed guideline regarding this, doctors will have to come forward on their own to cap the age limit for IVF treatment,” he added.
10-14% of Indian population is infertile
The Indian Society for Assisted Reproduction (ISAR), in its study, has found that nearly 10-14 per cent of the Indian population is infertile.
The ISAR says that one out of every six couples is infertile and about 27.5 million couples are trying to have a baby with the help of IVF.
Doctors attribute this spurt in infertility to the rapidly changing lifestyle of Indians.
Dr Sachdeva said she has even come across 25-year-old women who were unable to produce eggs. “Growing pressure of jobs and careers, pollution and postponing parenthood might be the main reasons behind this,” she added.