A Down Syndrome Surrogate Baby's Scandalous Fate
A Down Syndrome Surrogate Baby's Scandalous Fate
by Richard S. Ehrlich |
August 6, 2014
A woman who rented her womb and birthed twins said she will nurture a hospitalized Down syndrome baby purportedly abandoned by his biological Australian parents who paid for and took the infant's healthy sister.
The baby boy, named Gammy, underwent emergency medical treatment in a Thai hospital on Monday (August 4) reportedly suffering a lung infection, heart condition, mental impairment and other congenital problems.
The surrogate mother, Pattharamon Chanbua, 21, said her devout Buddhist faith convinced her to reject medical advice to abort the twins when the male fetus was diagnosed with Down syndrome during her pregnancy.
She described herself as a naive, impoverished woman lured by money offered by an unidentified surrogate birth agency in Thailand.
"I asked the agency, 'Did I have to sleep with the man?' I was an innocent young girl, and I do not know about this business," she told Australia's Fairfax Media.
"The agent told me, 'We are going to make a glass tube baby,' but I did not understand.
"My husband agreed because we did not have money to pay our debts, and I did not need to have sex with another man," she said.
"It's a very, very sad story and I hate to think that a child could be abandoned like that," Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Saturday (August 2).
People across the world have offered to adopt Gammy, now about six months old, or pay the baby's medical bills through an Internet fund-raising campaign headlined: "Hope for Gammy" (http://gofundme.com/bxci90).
The site, created by unidentified "Friends of Gammy," displays photos of a blonde baby whose tongue protrudes while being snuggled by a Thai boy.
Other pictures show the baby in a deck chair on a sandy beach, and in a diaper on a blue blanket.
"We would like to assure people that this is a legitimate fundraising venture," the site said before achieving its goal on Sunday (August 3) of attracting Australian $200,000 (about U.S. $186,000).
"We do not view this as a short-term project, it is our vision by working together we can work to make Gammy's life meaningful and his challenges dealt with respect, love and care.
"All monies raised will be kept in trust by https://handsacrossthewater.org.au/ and will only be used for the care and well-being of Gammy."
Hands Across the Water says it is an Australian group, formed in 2005, supporting 267 orphans and needy children in Thailand at several of its facilities.
The twins' unidentified Australian biological father and his wife -- who was described by Australian media as "ethnic Asian" -- reportedly paid Ms. Pattharamon about U.S. $10,000 to be impregnated by in vitro fertilization (IVF) in Bangkok, assisted by a surrogate birth agency.
Ms. Pattharamon has two children of her own, aged six and three, and said she surprised the agency by conceiving twins.
When Ms. Pattharamon gave birth, the parents reportedly paid the agency about U.S. $15,000 for Gammy's twin sister and took her from Thailand to Australia, as had been arranged.
They may have rejected Gammy because they wanted only one child, or because of his illness.
In Australia, surrogate mothers are not allowed to profit by servicing couples, but can have medical costs and other fees paid.
A worldwide scarcity of surrogate mothers has resulted in countless couples paying for the procedure in various countries each year.
Surrogacy itself is not illegal in Thailand. Officials prefer married couples to arrange for a blood relative to birth their baby without a cash motive.
People involved in profiting from the surrogate birth and export of Gammy's twin sister may have violated Thailand's Anti-Human Trafficking Act which outlaws "procuring, buying, selling, vending, bringing from or sending to, detaining or confining, harboring, or receiving a child" for money.
Punishment is up to 10 years in jail, plus a fine.
"I would like to tell Thai women, 'Do not get into this business as a surrogate. Do not just think only for money'," Ms. Pattharamon said.
"If something goes wrong, no one will help us, and the baby will be abandoned from society. Then we have to take responsibility for that.
"I'll take care of Gammy on my own. I'll not give my baby to anybody."
In March 2011, Thai officials shut the local branch of a Taiwan-based surrogate birth agency.
That agency, Babe-101 Eugenic Surrogate, ran a house in Bangkok occupied by Vietnamese women who were inseminated so the company could sell their babies.
The arrangement was uncovered after photographs of "Oriental Selected Egg Donors" showed young, cute Asian women in coy poses on Babe-101 Eugenic Surrogate's website.
For at least $35,000 anyone could go online and rent a surrogate mother, and pay for sperm or ovum from an "Eastern race" or "Caucasian," with a complexion of "Yellow," "Caucasian," "Brown," "African," or "Red" through the Babe-101 Eugenic Surrogate agency.
Richard S. Ehrlich is a Bangkok-based journalist from San Francisco, California, reporting news from Asia since 1978, and recipient of Columbia University's Foreign Correspondent's Award. He is a co-author of three non-fiction books about Thailand, including "Hello My Big Big Honey!" Love Letters to Bangkok Bar Girls and Their Revealing Interviews; 60 Stories of Royal Lineage; and Chronicle of Thailand: Headline News Since 1946. Mr. Ehrlich also contributed to the final chapter, "Ceremonies and Regalia," in a new book titled King Bhumibol Adulyadej, A Life's Work: Thailand's Monarchy in Perspective.