Calls for clearer surrogacy rules after Thai Down's case
- 3 August 2014
- From the section Asia
Surrogacy campaigners have called for clearer regulation after a Thai woman was left with a Down's syndrome baby when his parents refused to take him.
The boy, whose twin sister was taken to Australia by the unidentified couple, needs urgent medical care.
The surrogate mother in Thailand says she will raise the boy as her own and an online campaign has raised $185,000 (£110,000) for his treatment.
The case has raised fears Australia could ban international surrogacy.
The baby boy, named Gammy, has a congenital heart condition and a lung infection as well as Down's syndrome. He is currently receiving urgent treatment in a Thai hospital.
His mother, Pattaramon Chanbua, was paid $15,000 (£9,000) to be a surrogate for the Australian couple.
The couple asked Mrs Pattaramon to have an abortion after doctors informed her of the child's condition four months after becoming pregnant. She refused, saying it was against her Buddhist beliefs.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said it was "an incredibly sad story" and illustrated "some of the pitfalls involved in this particular business".
It is illegal to pay for surrogacy in Australia so couples have to find a surrogate who is happy to carry the child for no payment beyond medical and other reasonable expenses.
Advocacy group Surrogacy Australia said this "red tape" means many couples choose to go abroad to find a surrogate, with 400 or 500 each year venturing to India, Thailand, the US and other places.
Rachel Kunde, the group's executive director, said she hoped the case would lead to better regulation by the Australian authorities of international surrogacy, rather than an outright ban.
"Our greatest fear is that Australia is going to ban international surrogacy altogether," she said. "We are hoping that the government will make accessing surrogates in Australia easier."
Nicola Scott, a British lawyer specialising in fertility issues, says a lack of regulation leaves the child vulnerable because issues such as termination are not discussed in advance.
She says the answer to the problem is an international treaty similar to the Hague Adoption Convention so that parents know what the situation is from the outset.
"Then each country would have its own rules and regulations and the parents, surrogates and children would be protected," she added.