Russia's Duma passes bill banning surrogacy for foreigners

General view shows State Duma in Moscow

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The lower house of the Russian parliament on Thursday passed in the second and third readings a bill that bans foreigners from using Russian surrogate mothers.

In addition, a child born by a surrogate mother in Russia would automatically be given Russian citizenship. Couples where one of the spouses is a Russian citizen will still be able to use Russian surrogate mothers.

Paid surrogacy is legal in Russia, but the practice has been criticised by religious groups as commercializing the birth of children.

Speaker of the State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin said that the decision to ban surrogacy in Russia was taken in order to protect Russian children.

(Reporting by Filipp Lebedev; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)