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MPs now raise age of prospective surrogate mothers from 18 to 25

 Joyce Lay

MPs have increased the lower age limit for a surrogate mother from 18 to 25 years.

The amendment to the Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill blocking "commercial surrogacy" means that it will not be possible to carry a baby for a childless woman until one is emotionally mature and able to make an informed decision.

"A woman of 25 years or more may at the request of a couple, consent to have an embryo or eggs and sperm of the couple placed in her or artificially inseminated for purposes of surrogate motherhood," reads the new amendment passed at the committee stage.

"We are trying to avoid cases where young frustrated girls offer to carry babies on behalf of childless women to make money," said Enock Kibunguchy as he contributed to the change to the bill sponsored by Millie Odhiambo (Mbita).

Initially called In-vitro Fertilisation Bill, the legislative proposal has been renamed Assisted Reproductive Technology to take into account other reproductive technologies outside surrogacy.

The bill is one of the radical family legislations considered by the 11th Parliament and provides legal rights to test tube babies and a legal framework to carry out the practice.

Legal Rights

"A child born out of in-vitro fertilisation under the act shall have the same legal rights under the Constitution or any other written law as that if a child born through sexual intercourse.

"While infertility affects a lot of women of reproductive age in Kenya and in-vitro fertisation is often a couple's or individuals' only chance at conception, there has never been an attempt to clothe the practice of in-vitro fertilisation in a fine statutory line," reads the bill.

Members had expressed fear that the legalisation of the practice could open "a window of opportunity" for young women eager to make a killing and defeat the purpose of the bill, which is to offer hope to thousands of women that cannot bear children through natural means.

"It is a very important bill for the nation. It will give a legal platform to surrogate motherhood. It is a very good law," said Joyce Lay (Taita Taveta).

Isaac Mwaura (nominated) also lauded the bill, saying that women will be the biggest winners when it eventually becomes law.

"I am happy to see a shift for the women in this country," said Rachel Shebesh (Nairobi).

The bill provides for consent between couples before they undertake the practice. It compels a surrogate mother to surrender the child at birth in a bid to avoid legal challenges on the parenthood of the baby.

The legal loopholes the bill seeks to cure were illustrated in a past case where Aga Khan Hospital refused to hand over a child to the biological parents and instead put the baby in a children's home because the law did not distinguish between surrogates and the biological parents.

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