Foreigners have been banned from paying Thai women to be surrogate mothers, in a bid to stop the country becoming “the womb of the world”, following a string of high-profile scandals.
Thailand’s military-picked legislature yesterday approved a law that criminalises commercial surrogacy and prohibits foreigners from seeking surrogacy services in the country.
The law, which prohibits the act of hiring women commercially to carry foetuses to term, aims to stop Thailand from being a surrogacy hub for foreign couples, or from becoming “the wombs of the world,” National Legislative Assembly member Wanlop Tangkananurak said.
Thailand was rocked by several surrogacy scandals last year, including the case of a boy known as Baby Gammy, one of twins born to a surrogate and left by an Australian couple after discovering he had Down’s syndrome.
Thai surrogate Pattaramon Chanbua claimed Wendy and David Farnell had left Gammy and returned to Australia with his healthy twin sister, Pipah. Thanks to charities and the help of the public, Gammy and his surrogate mother and her family were given a new home in Thailand’s Chonburi province.
Ms Pattaramon also applied for Australian citizenship for Gammy and it was granted last month.
Another case last year involved a Japanese man who was said to have fathered at least 16 babies via Thai surrogates.
Previously, Thailand was one of the few Asian countries where commercial surrogacy was not specifically banned by law.
The medical council of Thailand has a regulation stating that doctors risk losing their licence if they perform surrogacy for pay.
Thailand became a go-to destination for couples from Australia, Hong Kong and Taiwan and a low-cost alternative to the United States.
Australia’s department of foreign affairs said last year that up to 150 Thai surrogate mothers carrying babies for Australian couples were expected to give birth by the end of 2015.
“Surrogacy business leaves too much long-term trouble for Thailand, so we are banning foreign couples from seeking surrogacy in our country to avoid being a hub and to prevent what we saw last year,” Mr Wanlop said.
The parliament voted 160 to two to pass the law on Thursday night. Under it, a Thai couple is allowed to seek a surrogate to carry the foetus only if they are able to prove they and their relatives are infertile. A couple with one Thai spouse seeking surrogacy must be married for at least three years.
The law also says anyone involved in commercial surrogacy will face a maximum jail term of ten years and a maximum fine of 200,000 baht (£4,000).