An Australian couple accused of abandoning a surrogate baby in Thailand after learning he had Down's syndrome have broken their silence and claimed they were not aware of the six-month-old boy's existence.
The couple told ABC News that they were informed by the Thai surrogacy agency only about the baby's twin sister, whom they took.
They told Channel Nine that they had a daughter the same age as Gammy but insisted she did not have a twin brother.
But their claim comes amid competing accounts about the birth of the boy, named Gammy, and is at odds with the comments of Ms Pattaramon Chanbua, the 21-year-old surrogate mother.
Ms Pattaramon, who has a six-year-old son and a three- year-old daughter, said the couple requested an abortion when they were told by doctors of Gammy's condition.
She initially told reporters she had not met the parents but has since told Fairfax Media that the father visited the twins at a hospital in Bangkok. She said the man, who is in his 50s, refused to look at or pick up Gammy and spent up to a month caring for the girl.
"He did not buy milk for Gammy. He bought milk only for the girl," she told Fairfax Media.
"The twins stayed next to each other but the father never looked at Gammy… I could say he never touched Gammy at all."
The parents were quoted by Channel Nine and ABC News as saying they were shocked to hear claims they had produced twins. They said they heard the surrogacy agency in Thailand no longer existed and their experience had been "traumatising". The couple are from Western Australia but have not been identified.
Meanwhile, Channel Nine reported that Gammy's alleged father was previously convicted of child sex offences in Australia in 1998. The man's wife, who is of Asian origin, reportedly was aware of the conviction but insisted he is "a good man".
Gammy's case has sparked debate in Australia about the growing use of surrogate mothers abroad, particularly from poorer countries. Immigration Minister Scott Morrison called Ms Pattaramon a "saint" and said the government was reviewing the case.
An online campaign, Hope for Gammy, has raised more than A$216,000 (S$250,790) to help with the boy's medical treatment. He is being treated for a life-threatening lung condition and will require heart surgery.
An Australian public health expert, Dr Liz Bishop, from Monash University, said relatively wealthy countries such as Australia should not be allowed to "outsource" surrogacy. She said she did not support paid surrogacy but, if it is allowed, it should be regulated and parents using surrogates should be bound by rules and obligations.
"If commercial surrogacy is to happen, we need to have a law that is consistent between what happens overseas and what happens in Australia," she said.
"I think what we are doing is just another example of high-income countries exploiting the vulnerable who have no options in incredibly low-income countries."
Dr Bishop said Australia's surrogacy laws were inconsistent, with some states allowing parents to pay surrogate mothers overseas and others banning it.
Ms Pattaramon has rejected offers from well-wishers to adopt Gammy though she has indicated that she would hand him over to the Australian couple.
She initially said she forgave the couple and was not angry but appeared to be enraged by the father's comments that he was not aware of Gammy's existence.
"I am very upset that the father said like that. I really want him to come to Thailand to see me … I would like to talk with him in front of the media," she told Fairfax Media. "No one can lie and the truth will come (out)… people who don't know me will think that I'm a bad person."
This article was first published on August 5, 2014.
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