CHONBURI, Thailand - The Thai surrogate mother of a baby born with Down Syndrome vowed Monday to "never abandon" him after the Australian parents reportedly refused to care for the child, sparking a moral debate and a cascade of donations for the boy's medical care.
Pattaramon Chanbua and seven-month old Gammy have been at the centre of a surrogacy controversy after reports emerged that the Australian couple flew to Thailand and took the boy's healthy twin sister at birth, but rejected the disabled child.
The 21-year-old surrogate said she would raise Gammy, who has been in hospital with a lung infection and heart condition for the last few days a couple of hours drive southeast of Bangkok.
"I am glad that in this unlucky situation there is a blessing that we are together," Pattaramon told AFP at Gammy's bedside in Chonburi province.
"I never thought of having an abortion, I never thought to abandon him. I love him as my own baby... he is my baby. I love him very much," she said.
"Gammy is getting better step-by-step," she said, adding the $215,000 donated so far by well-wishers across the globe would go towards his treatment and school fees.
"From all of these unlucky things I am glad that we are together. I love him very much, I will never abandon him," she said.
The case has also sparked fevered debate on the moral and legal grounding of international surrogacy, with Australians who travel overseas to side-step domestic restrictions falling under the spotlight.
Australia's immigration minister on Monday labelled Pattaramon a "saint" and "absolute hero" for taking on the disabled baby despite already having two young children of her own.
"It is terrible, just absolutely horrible and heartbreaking," Scott Morrison said of the case.
"But I have got to tell you who is an absolute hero in all of this and that is the Thai mother. She is a saint," he said.
"Sure there are lots of Australians who are desperate to be parents, but that can never I think sanction what we have just seen here."