Disabled baby left with Thai surrogate: Fears raised over restrictions

Disabled baby left with Thai surrogate: Fears raised over restrictions

Reports that an Australian couple abandoned a baby with his surrogate mother in Thailand because he has Down's Syndrome have raised fears that both countries will move to restrict international surrogacy.

The boy was born to Thai woman Pattaramon Chanbua in December and while an Australian couple took his healthy twin sister, they left him behind, according to media reports.

"They [the surrogacy agency] told me to carry a baby for a family that does not have children... They said it would be a baby in a tube," Pattaramon told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

The 21-year-old from Chon Buri province said she agreed to carry the child for a fee of Bt400,000 - enough to educate her own two children and pay back debts.

But she is now left with the baby boy, who also suffers from a life-threatening heart condition, and cannot afford to pay for the medical treatment he needs.

"I don't know what to do. I chose to have him... I love him, he was in my tummy for nine months," she told the ABC.

Reports about the boy being "abandoned" have triggered a media frenzy in Australia and a wave of donations to a fundraising page created last week, while Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said it was an "incredibly sad" situation.

"I guess it illustrates some of the pitfalls involved in this particular business," he told reporters.

By yesterday, well-wishers had raised more than US$140,000 (Bt4.5 million) in donations for the baby via the "Hope For Gammy" website, which was also flooded with comments.

"From my children to yours. They are the future and come all differently but always a gift from above," wrote one donor.

Under Medical Council of Thailand regulations, surrogacy should only be undertaken by parents who have had at least one child or couples with the same bloodline.

Commercial surrogacy, in which a woman is paid to carry a child, is not permitted in Australia but couples are able to use an altruistic surrogate who receives no payment beyond medical and other reasonable expenses.

However, Surrogacy Australia said more couples choose to go overseas than find an altruistic surrogate at home, with 400 or 500 each year venturing to India, Thailand, the United States and other places to do so. "It's just much easier overseas," chief executive Rachel Kunde said. "There's so much red tape involved [in Australia]."

Kunde said the details of the latest case were not clear, and it was not known if the Australian couple involved were even aware the boy was born or told that he had been aborted.

Some Australian states have banned commercial surrogacy arrangements overseas, but Kunde said Australia, which has no national legislation on surrogacy, needed better regulation.

"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."

It is not known if Thai authorities are investigating this case yet, or whether Pattaramon may have also broken Thai law.

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