Thai­land bans com­mer­cial sur­ro­gacy for for­eign­ers, sin­gles

The China Post - - LIFE - BY PENNY YI WANG

Thai­land, once a top choice for would-be par­ents around the world who were seek­ing a sur­ro­gate, has nar­rowed the choices for peo­ple look­ing to hire a woman to carry a fe­tus in her womb.

It had been one of the hand­ful of Asian coun­tries where com­mer­cial sur­ro­gacy was not specif­i­cally banned. And the cost of hav­ing a baby by sur­ro­gate, of­ten with an im­planted em­bryo from bi­o­log­i­cal par­ents, was less than US$ 50,000 in Thai­land, com­pared to about US$150,000 in the United States.

How­ever, re­cent scan­dals in Thai­land in­volv­ing for­eign clients caused a public out­cry. In one case, an Aus­tralian cou­ple aban­doned an in­fant born to a sur­ro­gate last year af­ter they found out the baby had Down syn­drome. In another, the son of a Ja­panese bil­lion­aire hired at least a dozen sur­ro­gate moth­ers in what ap­peared to be an ec­cen­tric ef­fort to repli­cate him­self.

The law that took ef­fect on July 30 pro­hibits com­mer­cial sur­ro­gacy serv­ing for­eign clients, with vi­o­la­tions pun­ish­able by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to 200,000 baht (US$6,200). Only Thai het­ero­sex­ual cou­ples mar­ried for more than three years can hire sur­ro­gates, a pro­vi­sion that ex­cludes gay peo­ple since same­sex mar­riage is not rec­og­nized.

Un­der an ear­lier law, the sur­ro­gate mother had full rights over the new­born, even though she has no ge­netic ties with the child. The new law gives in­tended par­ents full rights upon the child’s birth. The new law also has a tem­po­rary pro­vi­sion that al­lows in­tended par­ents with a sur­ro­gacy con­tract from be­fore the law came into ef­fect to pe­ti­tion in court for full parental rights.

When the law was still be­ing de­bated, Rarinthip Siro­rat, an of­fi­cial from the So­cial De­vel­op­ment and Hu­man Se­cu­rity Min­istry, ex­plained to The As­so­ci­ated Press that its pur­pose was “to give max­i­mum ben­e­fits to the sur­ro­gate ba­bies.”

“What’s sig­nif­i­cant about it is that Thai­land is not go­ing to have in­ter­na­tional sur­ro­gacy any­more,” said Stephen Page, a sur­ro­gacy lawyer at Har­ring­ton Fam­ily Lawyers in Bris­bane, Aus­tralia.

When sur­ro­gacy is banned in one coun­try, it in­vari­ably means the prac­tice will flour­ish in other places, he said. Other coun­tries in Asia such as In­dia and Nepal are also pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tions for in­ter­na­tional sur­ro­gacy, and more peo­ple will now seek sur­ro­gates there.

De­tails on how to en­force the new law are still un­clear, ac­cord­ing to Nan­dana In­dananda, a Bangkok-based lawyer who has been call­ing for le­gal re­form on the mat­ter.

A cur­rent high-pro­file case could re­solve some of the ques­tions. It in­volves a gay cou­ple — an Amer­i­can and a Spa­niard — who can­not take their daugh­ter Car­men out of Thai­land be­cause the sur­ro­gate mother de­cided that she wanted to keep the baby, and re­fused to sign le­gal pa­pers al­low­ing the girl’s exit from the coun­try.

The sit­u­a­tion leaves Gor­don Lake, the bi­o­log­i­cal fa­ther, and his hus­band — cur­rently liv­ing to­gether in Bangkok with Car­men and a tod­dler son — in le­gal limbo.

They hope that by go­ing to court, they will be able to have full and un­con­tested rights to Car­men, if the judge in­ter­prets the ap­pli­ca­ble laws in their fa­vor.

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