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Thailand has now banned foreigners from paying Thai women to carry their children, putting a stop to those seeking cheap options for surrogacy looking for a cheap womb for hire in Thailand.
According to a report by the BBC under the new law only married Thai couples with on Thai partner who have been married for at least three years will be able to seek surrogacy.
The practice of commercial surrogacy in Thailand has been under the spotlight since July last year when Pattaramon Chanbua, a Thai woman who was a surrogate for a an Australian couple, started to raise funds for the medical expenses of ‘Baby Gammy” a child with Downs Syndrome, one of the two twins she carried, the other baby was unaffected . The biological parents asked her to abort the pregnancy when they discovered Gammy has the syndrome but she refused citing her religious beliefs.
On a report on Australia’s 60 minutes the Farnell’s said that they had requested a refund from the agency as ‘no parent wants son with a disability” later it emerged that David Farnell had served a three year prison sentence for molesting girls under the age of ten. The couple said that prior to the surrogacy they had done some research online but not a lot.
BBC reports suggest that commercial surrogacy was ostensibly banned in 1997 by Thailand’s medical council, but the industry continued to boom. New legislation has been in the pipeline for the last five years but this high profile case and another case concerning Misuktoki Shigeta, a man who fathered 16 babies have seen the law pushed through.
Surrogacy in South East Asia can but up to five times cheaper than in the UK, America and Australia.
Thailand’s legislation about commercial surrogacy is well-intentioned and hard won, and there are recent examples—in vastly different contexts—where countries have effectively used legislation to improve labor conditions for female workers in hidden and/or domestic arenas, such as the 2013 agreement between the Philippines and Saudi Arabia.
But crucially, these laws don’t seek to ban but to improve. From my very cheap seats, I’m wishing that lip service to all the ways an act can be exploitative wasn’t so much easier than regulation: ideally, regulation that would improve pay for surrogates, monitor living conditions and pre-and-postpartum care, and levy taxes on this stellar womb bargain in a way that would benefit in-country education for young girls and reproductive care for women.