Kenya’s unregulated surrogacy process is set to be streamlined if the Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill, 2019 becomes law.
The Bill sponsored by Suba North MP Millie Odhiambo seeks to entrench surrogacy and other assisted reproductive technologies such as in vitro fertilisation (IVF) into the law and have the processes regulated by Assisted Reproductive Technology Authority. “This is a Bill that seeks to provide for the regulation of assisted reproductive technology, to establish an Assisted Reproductive Technology Authority and to make provisions for children born of assisted reproductive technology processes,” Suba North MP told the National Assembly last week.
Kenya’s surrogacy processes and technologically assisted reproduction have been unregulated creating a breeding ground for unprofessional handling of the same and court cases over the legitimacy of the commissioning parent or parents (those who contract a surrogate).
To solve this problem, the proposed Bill clearly stipulates that the child will belong to the commissioning parent or parents and not the surrogate. “As currently provided, registration can only be undertaken with the surrogate mother and this has posed a great challenge as the biological parents strive to undertake the legal adoption process in order to be registered as parents,” said Ndhiwa MP Peter Owino.
“Section 11 of the Births and Deaths Act needs to be aligned with the proposed Bill to allow the registration of children born of assisted production be done by commissioning parents,” added Mr Owino.
Ms Odhiambo noted that the Bill will prohibit the surrogate from producing eggs intended for a procedure like IVF. “What this Bill seeks is to ensure that the person who carries the child should not be the bearer of the eggs because it creates legal issues. The mother who is carrying for the intended parents should have no biological connection to the child,” said the MP.
MPs lauded the Bill saying “it is long overdue” going by the fact that childless couples or persons have been targets of shame, stigma and ridicule in most communities.
Giving personal account of her life, Odhiambo disclosed how she has been subject to ridicule not only from her community but also a section of leaders because she does not have children. “The first salvo that was thrown at me when I wanted to vie for a parliamentary seat was that I cannot lead because I am Lur. Lur in my language means a barren woman,” said the Suba North MP.
“I brought this Bill mainly because of the thousands of voices I heard from women. When I brought this Bill, a 38-year-old woman sent me a text and told me that she had been divorced because she cannot have children,” added the MP.
Odhiambo said the Bill can be opened to include matters of research around issues of technological reproduction.
According to the Bill, aspiring parents should facilitate how the surrogate will live in terms of residence, nutrition, clinic visits and if the surrogate has stopped working for that purpose then they should be compensated for the period.
Similar to the Health Reproductive Bill, 2019, the Bill strives to cripple commercial surrogacy which many MPs think would attract ethical issues and go against the intended purpose which is to enable reproduction.
According to IVF Conceptions, a fertility medical tourism consultancy, there exists a price for a surrogate mother which ranges anywhere between Sh1 million and Sh1.5 million.