A law that has just come into effect in Thailand narrows the choices in Asia for people looking for a surrogate mother to carry a fetus in her womb.
Couples from around the world had been coming to Thailand for cheap surrogacy services, which involves hiring a woman to bear a child for someone else, often with an implanted embryo from biological parents utilizing donated eggs or sperm. The cost in Thailand was less than $50,000, compared to about $150,000 in the United States.
The new law, effective this month, prohibits commercial surrogacy serving foreign clients, with violations punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to 200,000 baht ($6,200).
Only Thai heterosexual couples married for more than three years can hire surrogates.
The new law follows a high-profile case last year when an Australian couple was found to have abandoned a baby suffering from Down’s Syndrome carried by a Thai surrogate, while taking his healthy twin.
The case of baby Gammy sparked outcry in Thailand and Australia. 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.
The Gammy story brought international attention on Thailand’s surrogacy industry, exposing its sheer scale and widespread abuses. One report suggested that as many as 100 surrogates were carrying children for Australian parents at the time.
In another high-profile case it emerged last September that a Japanese businessman reportedly fathered 16 surrogate babies in Thailand.
The Japan Times reported at the time that 24-year-old Mitsutoki Shigeta “said he wanted to produce between 100 and 1,000 babies, according to the co-founder of an organization that provides surrogate services in Thailand and other countries.”
The furore surrounding the cases prompted to ruling military junta to come down hard on foreign couples that it said did not have the necessary papers to take their newborn babies from Thailand, with many stranded there for weeks.
This weeks law brings a clear end to Thailand as an international surrogacy destination.
Additional reporting from Associated Press