Surrogate babies 'banned from exit'

CANBERRA - Four couples from the United States and Australia have been prevented from leaving Thailand with surrogate babies as part of a government crackdown on the burgeoning commercial surrogacy industry, an Australian broadcaster reported Friday.

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The crackdown follows recent publicity over a Thai surrogate mother who said she was left with a Down syndrome baby rejected by its Australian biological parents because of his disability. The biological parents dispute the circumstances in which they abandoned their son and took his healthy twin sister home.

Two Australian same-sex couples were prevented by Thai officials from leaving the Bangkok airport on Thursday afternoon with babies born to Thai women, Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported. One couple had attempted to travel with the Thai surrogate mother in the hope of avoiding challenge at the immigration desk, ABC said.

Two U.S. couples had been prevented from leaving Thailand with babies in similar circumstances since Wednesday, ABC said.

Thai officials told ABC the couples would have to apply for court orders to take the babies from the country, a process that could take months.

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on Friday would not confirm the report, citing privacy reasons.

"We strongly urge Australians entering Thailand for the purposes of commercial surrogacy to seek independent legal advice in both Thailand and Australia before doing so," the department said in a statement.

"In particular, they should seek advice on the implications of any new exit requirements," it added.

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