Surrogacy law review 'crucial'

Draft legislation to regulate surrogacy and assisted reproductive services is crucial to ensuring the well-being of the children involved, experts say.

The bill, known as the Protection of Children Born as a Result of Assisted Reproductive Technologies Act, will ensure that babies born to surrogate mothers will be legally recognised as the children of the commissioning parents, and place restrictions on surrogacy services.

Rarinthip Sirorat, director of the Office of Promotion and Protection of Children, Youth, the Elderly and Vulnerable Groups, said current laws mean that newborn babies legally belong to the birth mother, even if she is not the biological parent.

The bill was drafted in 2004, passed Council of State consideration in 2009 and was approved by the cabinet in 2010, but has sat idle in parliament since then.

The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) on Thursday announced that it would fast-track the legislation, forwarding it to the junta's social and psychological affairs section for further consideration before proposing the bill to the National Legislative Assembly.

Sawaeng Boonchalermvipas, an adviser to the Health Laws and Ethics Centre at Thammasat University, said the bill stated clearly that the commissioning parents must be physically unable to conceive a child, and must engage a surrogate who is a blood relative. The surrogate mother cannot be a parent or descendant of the commissioning parents, however, and must have had a child before.

Most crucially, commercial surrogacy will be outlawed, and agencies that broker surrogacy arrangements or accept financial or other benefits will be banned. Advertisements seeking women to act as surrogates for commercial purposes will also be illegal.

Pramuan Virutamasen, a member of the subcommittee that drafted the legislation, said there was currently no law governing surrogacy in Thailand. The practice is governed only by the Medical Council of Thailand's code of conduct, which provides only a moral framework for doctors.

"If this surrogacy bill is enforced, cases of children being abandoned with their surrogate mothers will be eliminated," Dr Pramuan said, referring to the case of baby Gammy who was left behind by his Australian commissioning parents.

Vitoon Eungprabhanth, a Council of State committee member and forensic medicine expert, said the Medical Council could then issue additional regulations concerning surrogacy services for foreign couples.

"On a case-by-case basis, foreign couples must be specially and carefully considered on their true intentions," he added.

Wanchai Roujanavong, director-general of the International Affairs Department at the Office of the Attorney General, questioned how surrogate babies were taken overseas by biological parents despite the fact that, by law, they are Thai and the children of the surrogate mothers.

"In case of the surrogate sister of Gammy, it is unusual and I do not understand how she can leave the country as she is the child of the surrogate mother," he said.

"The Australian embassy and immigration division should help explain this matter as well."

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