Thailand's interim parliament has voted in support of
a law to ban its largely unregulated surrogacy trade.
The move follows several high-profile surrogacy scandals
including the case of baby Gammy, who was allegedly abandoned by his intended
Australian parents because he has Down's syndrome (reported in BioNews 765).
If passed, the new law would
mean that anyone involved in commercial surrogacy could face up to ten years in
prison. A finalised version of the law is expected to be ready for
consideration within a month.
Dozens - perhaps even hundreds -
of foreign couples are thought to have been left in the dark after entering
Thai surrogacy agreements.
'We want to put an end to this
idea in foreigners' minds that Thailand is a baby factory,' Thai MP Wallop Tungkananurak told the AFP news agency. 'The bill was adopted with overwhelming support.'
For decades, commercial surrogacy in Thailand has existed in a legal grey area. In 1997, the Thai Medical Council issued a
service standard stipulating that 'no compensation may be made' to the gamete donor or surrogate mother, and that the surrogate mother 'shall be a relative
by blood of either party of the couple', but these stipulations have been
Associated Press adds that the Medical Council 'has a regulation stating that doctors
cannot perform surrogacy for pay or risk losing their licence'. This,
too, has apparently been ignored.
Crucially, Thai law does not
specifically ban commercial surrogacy, making it an attractive destination for foreigners
hoping to have a baby this way.
The baby Gammy controversy
was followed by reports of a separate case in which a 24-year-old Japanese man fathered at least 15 children with Thai surrogate mothers (see BioNews 768).