Following contentious cases involving suspected abuse of surrogate mothers and the children they carry, Thailand has enacted a new law that prohibits foreigners from seeking surrogates in the country.
A child born in Thailand by surrogate last year was left behind after he was born with Down's syndrome. It's still unclear whether that was because the couple refused to take him following the diagnosis or if the surrogate mother refused to let him go, but in the fallout the Thai government decided to ban the country's "womb-for-hire" industry where they saw many risks for Thai surrogate mothers and children.
In another case, a Japanese man fathered at least 13 children by Thai surrogates and then left them living with nannies in the country. Local police raided an apartment and found nine of the babies with nannies and a pregnant surrogate, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Twelve of his children born through surrogacy are now in protective custody, and he is being investigated by authorities for possible human trafficking, the Guardian reports.
As the new rules takes effect this week, a couple is in the midst of a battle to bring the daughter they had through a Thai surrogate home. American Bud Lake and his Spanish husband, Manuel Santos, say their daughter has been granted American citizenship but can't leave Thailand without a passport and permission from the Thai government, according to NPR.
The surrogate, Patidta Kusolsang, who they found through an agency called the New Life Global Network, had agreed give them the child after she was born, but apparently changed her mind at the last minute, ABC reports. The couple think Kusolsang changed her mind when she found out they're gay. They say they're not leaving Thailand until they can bring their daughter back with them.
"All this because our surrogate doesn’t want Carmen to be raised by gay parents, and the law that should give me full parental powers excludes me from obtaining them because I am gay," Bud Lake, one of the parents, writes in a Change.org petition to the U.S. and Thai governments asking to bring their daughter to America. They also have another child, a son, from a surrogate in India.
A spokesperson for the agency the couple used told ABC News this doesn't happen very often. They say they've had 5,000 surrogacies since 2008 with no other cases like this one.
"We understand their resentment and feel so sorry for what they experience," New Life Global Network spokesperson Mariam Kukunashvili told ABC. "Such risks occur and we inform intended parents about it as expectations must be met and at least they must be aware and ready for all possible scenarios."
In theory, the new law will prevent exploitation of poor women who get into surrogacy and heartache for parents like Lake who have complications bringing their kids home. But the BBC's South Asia Correspondent, Jonathan Head, writes:
The yearning of childless couples for babies will now probably move on to less regulated countries. But will surrogacy end in Thailand? The money to be made is so tempting for poor families that the business may still survive as an underground, illegal one, with all the dangers to the women of exploitation and poor health facilities.
Meanwhile Lake, Santos, and Kusolsang, are going to court this week. Kusolsang has filed child abduction charges, while Lake and Santos are filing a legal petition to take Carmen overseas.