By Wassayos Ngamkham | Bangkok Post | May 27, 2020
Police are pressing charges against a doctor suspected of involvement in a transnational surrogacy ring in Bangkok, where surrogacy is illegal. One woman believed to be involved has been arrested, and police say they are preparing to arrest 10 additional people. Surrogates were hired in Thailand and sent to other countries for embryo transfer; most came back to give birth, though some were sent to China to deliver the babies.
In a saga that started in 2014, one of the richest men in Japan has just been granted custody of children he commissioned from Thai gestational mothers. In its ruling, the central juvenile court “found the father had no history of bad behaviour and would provide for the children’s happiness.”
This case first came to light in the regulatory upheaval following the case of Baby Gammy in Thailand, and resulted in the country’s eventual ban on international commercial surrogacy. It continues to raise questions as, according to Sam Everingham, a director of the Australia-based consultancy Families Through Surrogacy, an example of “an unacceptable abuse of the limited pool of gestational surrogates globally” and, more broadly, the ethics of a practice that does not protect the rights of the women and children involved.
Following up on the recent arrest of a Thai national carrying multiple vials of human semen into Laos, this editorial provides a comprehensive overview of surrogacy laws in the region.
Thailand, for example, largely permits surrogacy between blood relatives; Cambodia’s temporary guidelines, which allow foreign intended parents to legally take their children out of the country, will soon be replaced with a permanent law; and Vietnam amended its Marriage and Family Law in 2015 to only allow “altruistic surrogacy”. Their proximity – see map alongside, with Thailand represented in white – and inconsistent law positions Laos and Myanmar as the new hubs on the block.
After India, Nepal, Thailand, and Cambodia closed their doors to international commercial surrogacy, Laos is stepping up to the front of the line.
This article covers the recent arrest of a man carrying vials of human semen destined for a fertility clinic in the country’s capital. He admits having done so 12 times in the last year, making clear, yet again, the mobility of the practice across geographical borders and its adaptive agility in the face of changing laws.
The International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics provides a forum within bioethics for feminist thought and debate. It is sponsored by the International Network on Feminist Approaches to Bioethics, and includes feminist scholarship on ethical issues related to health, health care, and the biomedical sciences.
Contributors to vol. 7, no. 2, titled Transnational Reproductive Travel, explore questions and ethics related to international commercial surrogacy, in countries such as Canada, Thailand, Japan, and Denmark. The issue also includes a commentary on the Hague Convention and a review of “Breeders: A Subclass of Women,” by Jennifer Lahl from Stop Surrogacy Now.
With commercial surrogacy banned in India, Nepal, and Thailand, this article takes a closer look at Cambodia as the next destination. It explores the legal and ethical status of the practice, concluding on a message of “buyer beware” as people considering surrogacy are warned about the risks of not being able to take children home or being charged with human trafficking.