Thailand has officially clamped down on commercial surrogacy practices – where a woman has a fetus implanted and brings it to term in exchange for financial compensation from the child’s parents – with new laws coming into effect this week.
Thailand had become a popular destination in recent years for same-sex couples and others seeking surrogacy services due to its lack of regulation around the practice.
However public opinion turned against foreigners coming to Thailand to access commercial surrogacy services in July of last year after a baby with Down Syndrome born to a Thai surrogate was allegedly dumped in Thailand by the child’s Australian biological parents who took the baby’s healthy twin sister home with them.
It later emerged that the child’s father also had prior convictions for sexual offenses against young girls.
In response lawmakers passed strict new limitations in February as to who may enter into surrogacy arrangements in Thailand and in what circumstances they can occur.
Under the new laws, which came into effect yesterday, only legally married heterosexual couples may access surrogacy services and the surrogate must not benefit financially from the arrangement.
Profiting from donated sperm, eggs or fetuses has also been prohibited and the new law also dictates strict rules as to who can serve as a surrogate for a couple.
If the couple seeking surrogacy services have sisters then only one of them can serve as the surrogate but if neither partner has a sister a surrogate from outside the family may be used.
Thais who are married to foreigners will also have to wait at least three years from the date that their marriage was registered to become eligible to access surrogacy services in order to prevent people from trying to get around the system.
Under the new arrangement women who seek to profit from surrogacy could be jailed for up to 10 years – while doctors who knowingly abetted a banned surrogacy arrangement could face up to a year in prison.
A Florida gay couple are currently battling to get custody of their daughter (pictured) born to a Thai surrogate. However they contracted that arrangement before the change in the law so it will not complicate their circumstances further.