Gammy: What we know so far

Gammy, a baby born with Down's Syndrome, is held by his surrogate mother Pattaramon Janbua (not seen) at a hospital in Chonburi province. Photo: Damir Sagolj, Reuters.
Gammy, a baby born with Down's Syndrome, is held by his surrogate mother Pattaramon Janbua (not seen) at a hospital in Chonburi province. Photo: Damir Sagolj, Reuters.

Baby Gammy was left behind in Thailand by his biological Australian parents who returned to WA with his healthy twin sister. He is believed to have Downs syndrome and a congenital heart condition.

Gammy has stayed in the care of his surrogate mother Pattaramon Chanbua in an impoverished village in Thailand. A food stall worker, she is thought to have been paid $15,000 to be a surrogate. Under Thai law, Ms Pattharamon is Gammy’s legal mother.

He is receiving treatment in hospital for a lung infection. Fund-raising for his medical expenses and long-term care has topped almost $200,000.

Thai authorities are cracking down on surrogacy in Thailand, declaring that any baby born under surrogacy arrangements would need the permission of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to take the baby out of the country.

Dozens of Thai clinics have pulled down or changed websites advertising surrogacy and gender selection IVF procedures that were popular with Australians. Authorities have warned that clinics advertising gender selection would be prosecuted.

The crackdown has left about 200 Australian couples who have surrogacy arrangements in Thailand facing an uncertain future for their babies.

Officials have declared that altruistic surrogacy would be allowed only where a married couple could not conceive a child and engaged a blood relative to carry their child.

Any arrangement where money is provided to the surrogate to carry the child is now illegal and any foreigner removing a child from their mother to another country permanently without permission from Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs would face prosecution under human trafficking laws.

Commercial surrogacy, in which a woman is paid to carry a child, is not permitted in Australia, with money limited to the costs of medical and other reasonable expenses. Many couples choose to go abroad, with Thailand and India among the most popular destinations. 

Demand for in vitro fertilisation, with the option of choosing the child’s gender, has been growing at more than 20 per cent in Thailand where the industry has been largely unregulated.

The country has 44 IVF clinics with four new facilities opening last year.

In Australia, it is illegal to enter into any arrangement that compensates the surrogate for anything more than out-of-pocket expenses. But only NSW, Queensland and the ACT have seen fit to apply a similar standard to international surrogacy, using criminal law to discourage residents from engaging in such arrangements overseas.

There is now pressure on the Abbott government to release a Family Law Council report on surrogacy arrangements. It has sat on these findings for more than seven months.