Three weeks after the Supreme Court issued an interim order to halt surrogacy services in Nepal, a cabinet meeting on Friday decided to ban the service altogether.
Minister for Information and Communications Minendra Rijal informed that the government has banned surrogacy services in Nepal.
Nepal does not have any law regarding surrogacy services. But the government, through a cabinet decision in September last year had decided to allow surrogacy services for foreign couples. Several private hospitals managed to secretly acquire a “permission letter” through the Personnel Administration Division (PAD), which is not an authorized division of the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) to issue such letter, and started surrogacy services.
“The government has rescinded its earlier decision to allow surrogacy services for foreigners in Nepali hospitals. From now onward, the hospitals cannot provide surrogacy services,” Minister Rijal, who is also the spokesperson of the government, said.
Following legal controversy over the services, the Supreme Court (SC) acting on a writ petition had issued an interim order on August 25, to halt the surrogacy services.
Hospitals like Grande City Clinic (GCC), Grande International Hospital, Om Hospital and Research Center, and Venus Hospital among others had been providing surrogacy services using Indian women, who were brought to Nepal via ‘agents.’
Records at the Department of Immigration show that the department has already issued travel documents to more than 70 babies born to surrogates. An Israeli couple was the first to take home a baby born in January 2014 through surrogate in Nepal, long before the cabinet decision. The department had issued travel document for the baby in February 2014.
Nepal emerged as a hub for commercial surrogacy in Asia after surrogacy was banned in Thailand and legal complications in India. In 2013, India prevented gay men and couples who had been married for less than two years from opting for surrogacy.
However, the government has not spoken anything about the surrogacies commissioned before the Supreme Court order.
Spokesperson at the MoHP Mahendra Shrestha told Republica that the cabinet needs to address this issue as well. “We are not in a condition to immediately direct anything on the existing pregnant cases,” Shrestha said. “We will hold further discussions and come up with a decision at the earliest.” He even added that the government should make some kind of arrangement for existing surrogacy cases humanitarian ground.
The Department of Immigration has also stopped issuing visas to the babies born to surrogate mothers. The DoI has also asked the MoHP for written instrurction on how to deal with surrogacies commissioned before the court’s order.
The GGC, which has been providing surrogacy services to many surrogacy centers, said it has more than 150 ongoing surrogacies ranging from one to nine months.