Thailand's parliament has given preliminary approval to a law that would make it illegal for women in the country to hire themselves out as surrogate mothers to would-be foreign parents. The legislation follows a series of high-profile scandals in the past year that have shed a negative light on the practice.
Michael Sullivan, reporting for NPR, tells our Newscast unit that the law "probably wouldn't have seen the light of day if the so called Baby Gammy case hadn't happened. That's the one where an Australian couple allegedly abandoned their Down Syndrome baby but kept his healthy twin sister. That got people digging and soon after they unearthed the case of the Japanese man who'd fathered 16 babies by different mothers and that was the tipping point."
The new law is in keeping with a promise the military government made after it seized power in a coup in May.
"The law bans foreign couples from seeking surrogacy services and stipulates that surrogate mothers must be Thai and over 25.
"'The important part is if the couple seeking surrogacy services is Thai or the couple is mixed-race, they can find a Thai woman to be their surrogate providing she is over 25,' [National Legislative Assembly member Wanlop Tankananurak] said, adding that violation of the law carries a 'severe prison sentence.'"
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The Guardian quotes another parliamentarian, Chet Siratharanon, as saying the bill passed on its first reading on Thursday but that it could be a month before it is finalized.
Even so, as the newspaper notes:
"The medical council of Thailand has a regulation stating that doctors risk losing their license if they perform surrogacy for pay. But that penalty has rarely been enforced and there are no rules covering surrogacy agencies or surrogate mothers, leaving room for commercial surrogacy to occur without oversight.
"Thailand has become a go-to destination for couples from Australia, Hong Kong and Taiwan and a low-cost alternative to the United States. The cost of a baby by surrogate in Thailand is less than $50,000, compared to about $150,000 in the U.S."