Ahmedabad (AsiaNews) - "Surrogate motherhood is popular among the poorest women because it is easy money and requires little effort. But it is a practice that goes against human dignity, and we are strongly opposed it," Mgr Thomas Ignatius Macwan, bishop of Ahmedabad (Gujarat), told AsiaNews.
The Anand Akankasha Infertility Clinic is located in his diocese. On paper, it is an infertility clinic; in reality, it is the most famous surrogacy centre in India, used by infertile couples from around the world.
Set up in 1999 by Dr Nayana Patel, the facility has two hostels for the women who are willing to "rent" their womb for the implantation of an embryo from an infertile couple, and carry the pregnancy on their behalf.
Aged 21 to 35, surrogate mothers receive proper food and remain under strict medical supervision for the nine-month period. They must be from Gujarat and cannot take part in more than three surrogacies. If they are married, their husband must sign a consent form.
Customers, too, must abide by certain rules. They must be married and cannot "rent the womb" according to caste or religion.
"This clinic uses women who come from very poor situations," Bishop Macwan told AsiaNews. "Some of them are Catholic and with the diocese we try to do everything we can to help them not to resort to this practice. Myself I told a few of them many times, 'If you are in trouble, we are ready to help you. But do not resort to surrogacy because this practice is against human values."
For a surrogate pregnancy, women are paid about 400,000 rupees (US$ 6,500), a quarter of what the "future parents" have to pay.
"We have held courses to raise awareness about abortion and surrogacy," the diocesan department of social media quoted the prelate as saying. "We explained that they are wrong actions."
"We also asked all the parishes to contact these women to help them and provide them with counselling, but the reality is that a good number of them choose that path anyway. Some of us have also talked with the doctor, but she claims that there is nothing wrong with what she is doing."
Ahmedabad is the smallest of Gujarat's four dioceses, but it has the most Catholics, more than 70,000 out of a population of about 10 million people.