New Thai surrogacy laws come into effect
Thailand has now passed legislation that prevents surrogacy services for foreign couples. Under the new laws, surrogacy services are available only to heterosexual Thai couples or couples with one Thai partner, who have been married for a minimum of three years. Commercial surrogacy is also now banned under this new legislation.
Charing feeds for the service is now illegal. Surrogate mothers must be over 25 years of age, and Thai nationals. Furthermore, the surrogate mother must be related to either the wife or husband seeking the surrogate service.
The new laws have come into effect after five years since Thailand first started drafting legislation surrounding commercial surrogacy. Successive political crises had prevented the introduction of these new laws.
However, following two very high profile international surrogacy scandals involving the country last year.
“Baby Gammy” and the “Baby Factory” cases
In 2014, the plight of “Baby Gammy” was reported around the world. Born with Down syndrome, his Thai surrogate mother claimed that the boy was abandoned by his Australian parents, while his healthy twin sister was taken back to Australia. Gammy’s Thai mother, Pattaramon Chanbua, was left with little choice but to raise the boy herself. With significant ongoing medical expenses and no means to support the child, Gammy was later granted Australian citizenship to provide access to better medical care.
In another high profile case commonly referred to as the “Baby Factory”, a Japanese business man was found to have fathered up to fifteen children with Thai surrogates. According to the police, twelve of these children remain in Thailand. Although suspected of human trafficking, there has been no evidence that the father intended on selling the children. These are just a couple of recent cases where the risks and controversies surrounding poorly regulated surrogacy practices have come to the world’s attention.
What are the new penalties?
Thailand is one of several countries throughout the world where childless couples seek surrogacy services. The low cost and relative ease of entering into a surrogacy agreement used to make a Thai surrogate mother a very attractive option for many people desiring children.
Now, the new Thai legislation bans the promotion of women willing to carry babies for other people, and the use of agencies or agents.
Under the new laws, anyone caught soliciting the services of a surrogate mother will face a maximum term of ten years imprisonment. Agents found advertising surrogacy services will also risk jail time. There is also a fine of up to 200,000 Thai Baht (approximately €5,500) imposed.
Will the new laws really change surrogacy in Thailand?
Despite the new legislation, critics remain sceptical as to whether or not these laws will actually change the situation in Thailand. While some couples will choose to seek surrogacy services in other, less regulated countries, the reality is that there is not sufficient law enforcement in Thailand. Many people argue that this new legislation will drive the service further underground.
The temptation for poor families to make money from surrogacy is high and this can promote exploitation. Women not only risk jail time, they are also exposed to poor health facilities and physicians, plus exploitation. Childless parents will risk not being able to take their new baby home and other legal ramifications. If and how the new laws are enforced over the coming years remains to be seen.
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