Pattaramon Chanbua, Gammy

Pattaramon Chanbua, 21, poses with baby Gammy at a hospital in Chonburi province, southeastern Thailand Sunday, Aug. 3, 2014. Pic: AP

The sad and bizarre story surrounding baby Gammy takes yet another turn. Gammy’s biological parents have declared they want their son and “would fight to get him back,” according to Australia’s Channel Nine.

This case made headlines when Gammy’s surrogate mother, 21-year-old Pattaramon Chanbua, said the Australian couple for whom she was a surrogate abandoned Gammy upon finding out he had Down syndrome. David and Wendy Farnell hired Pattaramon to carry a baby for them, and took Gammy’s twin sister Pipah home to Australia after the babies were born. When the scandal first broke, the Farnells denied having a son or any knowledge of Gammy, as reported by Channel Nine.

The couple eventually acknowledged they knew about Gammy, but insisted they were told he had a congenital heart condition he could not survive, not that he had Down syndrome, according to The Age. However, Pattaramon’s account and David Farnell’s later remarks suggest the couple did know about Gammy’s condition. Pattaramon claimed the surrogacy agency through whom she was connected to the Farnells told her the couple wanted her to have an abortion when they found out Gammy had Down syndrome.

The Farnells denied that claim in a 60 Minutes interview, claiming they “never abandoned him” or told Pattaramon to have an abortion.

David described his and his wife’s reaction to the news in this way:

“Let’s see how things go. Let’s just keep your fingers crossed. Because there’s always hope.” …

The boy has got Down syndrome but there are different levels of Down syndrome, so we were just hoping, maybe it’s not that severe. We didn’t give up on him. At the very beginning, when we found out that the little boy had Down syndrome, we said that we still wanted him and the agency – while we were in Australia, we were still looking at what other options because when they gave us all these options and we were so angry with them about not telling us and doing the tests earlier, we were very confused at that time, and we said that, you know, ‘This is your fault. You must take some responsibility for this.”

Farnell said he expected financial reparation for having been wronged by the agency.

Questioned by interviewer Tara Brown on whether they do not want a son with a disability, David said, “I don’t think any parent wants a son with a disability. Parents want their children to be healthy and happy and be able to do every other thing other children do.”

AFP quoted the following from the Channel Nine interview:

“We never abandoned him, we never said to the surrogate mother ‘have an abortion’,” said David Farnell, although he admitted it crossed their minds.

“Because he has a handicap and this is a sad thing. And it would be difficult, not impossible, but difficult.”

The couple said they wanted to take Gammy with them to Australia, but feared that if they did, they would lose Pipah.

“[Pattaramon] said if we tried to take our little boy, she’s gonna get the police and she’s gonna take our little girl, and she’s gonna keep both of the babies.”

The Farnells claim their intention was to make sure Pipah was secure in Australia before returning to Thailand to fight for Gammy.

A sordid past

When the story first gained international attention, Pattaramon said she forgave the Farnells for abandoning Gammy and that she would raise him as her own. She later said she would “be happy” to raise Pipah as well, citing concerns that David Farnell is a convicted pedophile, as reported by the Associated Press and Australia’s Channel Nine News. The latter ran a segment reporting that David committed 18 offenses against two young girls, ages seven and 10, between 1982 and 1983. While serving a three-year jail sentence, Farnell was convicted of additional sexual offenses committed against a five-year-old girl.

David answered questions about his sex offender conviction in the 60 Minutes interview. The reporter questioned whether he could be sure his daughter would be safe with him as she grows up, and David insisted she would be “100 percent safe.”

When asked if he understood why people would be concerned about his daughter, David responded “There is no reason to be concerned. I’m not going to harm my little girl.”

“Everybody hates sex offenders. They are the lowest form of people, not even worthy of breathing. I know that,” he said. “That’s why I’ve tried so hard and wanted to be good father for my children so people can see that I’m a good person now, because I did this bad thing a long time ago.”

Surrogacy in Thailand

Gammy’s story horrified those following it, but it also spurred the Thai government to crackdown on the surrogacy industry. The Australian government believes Thai surrogates may be carrying more than 100 babies for Australian parents, The Nation reported. Paid surrogacy is banned in Thailand, and authorities are said to be investigating unlicensed clinics arranging unlawful surrogate pregnancies and tightening restrictions.

However, Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop asked that Thailand relax the laws temporarily to allow for situations in which a Thai woman is currently pregnant with a child for an Australian couple, according to The Nation. Though she acknowledged Thailand’s authority in dealing with the country’s surrogacy situation, Bishop made the appeal for “humanitarian” reasons, to accommodate those couples caught in this transition period.

The Silver Lining

The good news to come out of this case is that due to the international attention, Australian non-profit Hands Across the Water managed to help raise more than $200,000 to help Gammy receive life-saving medical treatment. Gammy is still living with Pattaramon and her other children, but Hands Across the Water has said the organization rather than his current family will manage donations for Gammy.

The Australian quoted Peter Baines, Hands’ founder, as saying it would be “irresponsible” to give the money to Pattaramon, who reportedly admitted to marketing herself as a surrogacy agent.

Hands Across the Water has been posting updates about Gammy’s condition and how donations are being handled at their Facebook page.