THE sad case of baby Gammy, the critically-ill boy seemingly left behind in Thailand by his Australia surrogate parents, could have been prevented if the government heeded warnings, a leading lawyer says.
Adoption and surrogacy lawyer Stephen Page warned the government last year that its ban on commercial surrogacy in Australia was sending couples offshore in record numbers, where haphazard regulation means surrogate mums are subject to a greater risk of exploitation.
The federal government has been sitting on a report from the Family Law Council into issues around parentage in Australia, including surrogacy, for the last seven months and is yet to even set a date for its release.
In the meantime, the numbers of parents paying overseas surrogates, particularly in India and Thailand, to carry children for them has continued to climb.
In his submission to the Family Law Council review, lodged last year, Mr Page said commercial surrogacy could easily be done in Australia “without the fear of exploitation of intended parents, surrogates, and their partners or the children”.
But he warned the failure of Australian politicians to properly deal with surrogacy here in Australia has “meant Australian intended parents have voted with their feed and undertaken commercial surrogacy overseas.”
Mr Page said if law makers had embraced his suggestion to properly regulate commercial surrogacy here, “instead of the maze of laws in place at the present moment … virtually forcing people to go offshore to places like Thailand, then the case of baby Gammy would likely never have arisen”.
Baby Gammy’s 21-year-old Thai surrogate mother Pattharamon Janbua was last night reportedly threatening to sue the child’s Australian parents, who she claims took his twin sister but abandoned little Gammy, who has Down syndrome and a heart condition.
A West Australian couple believed to be the parents have denied knowing about the second child.
A spokesman for the Attorney-General’s Department last night said the government was “concerned about the issues raised in the baby Gammy case.”
“The case raises broader legal and other issues relating to surrogacy in Thailand. Australian Government agencies are examining these issues in consultation with authorities in Thailand,” the spokesman said.
Last year about 400 Australian children were born through a surrogacy arrangement in Thailand.
While baby Gammy’s case has highlighted the risks involved in these arrangements, many parents who have been through the process describe it as a remarkably positive and professional one.
Kylie Young, 39, always wanted to be a mother and after a 12 year battle to conceive, including eight unsuccessful attempts at IVF, she decided to explore engaging a surrogate and an egg donor through a reputable clinic in Thailand.
“We asked lots of questions of our clinic, we were very happy with them. We all signed contracts, the surrogate, the egg donor — it was 13 pages of information,” she said.
Ms Young, who now has two beautiful 14 month old twins, Stella and Luke, says she has no regrets about her decision to have children through surrogacy.
She also plans to be very open with them when they are old enough to understand how they came into the world.
“I would go back tomorrow if we had the money and have another child, it was a very good experience,” she said.