Thai surrogate case sparks political intervention
8 August 2014 by Charlotte Knappett
The Australian government has stated that it is looking into what can be done to help the Down’s Syndrome baby, Gammy, that has been left with his Thai surrogate mother. The Australian Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop said that several government bodies were discussing the issue, and both Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Immigration Minister Scott Morrison have expressed regret over the situation. The Attorney-General’s Department, in a statement to the BBC, said that together with the Thai authorities, the Australian government was now examining “broader legal issues relating to surrogacy in Thailand.”
Mr Morrison made clear that the law surrounding this issue is “very, very murky” especially as it happened in another country’s jurisdiction. The Immigration Department has expressed to the media that Gammy may be eligible for Australian citizenship, and therefore free medical care in Australia.
Commercial surrogacy is largely unregulated in Thailand, and the industry is attracting commissioning parents from all parts of the western world. However, agencies report that the military government in Thailand is cracking down on surrogacy clinics following the result in this tragic case.
Gammy is being brought up by his Thai surrogate mother, a 21 year old food vendor after the commissioning parents took his twin sister and left him, allegedly because of his condition.
The legal situation in Australia is similar to the UK. Commercial surrogacy is illegal, and a surrogate mother can only be paid medical and other “reasonable” expenses. This has forced some citizens to look overseas for a commercial surrogacy agreement. At present only three states in Australia ban residents from heading overseas in search of surrogate mothers.
Jenni Millibank, a surrogacy law expert in Australia believes this case will not halt international surrogacy. “In recent years we’ve seen a lot of Australians travel to India, and then more recently to Thailand,” she said. “If Thailand closes down, people will move on to the next destination. And the international surrogacy players – some of them are transnational players – are already setting up in places like Mexico and elsewhere.”
This is an evolving area of the law, and you should always seek legal advice before considering a surrogacy arrangement. Our Family Law Specialists will be able to advise on all aspects of the surrogacy process, so if you have any questions contact us today.