Contrary to popular wisdom, surrogacy is not permitted in Thailand notwithstanding the fact that it has become a popular reproductive tourism location. Amid unsubstantiated reports of a government crackdown yesterday on some IVF clinics operating surrogacy programs, we thought we would revisit this investigative report from late last year on the surrogacy trade in Thailand:
Surrogacy is illegal in Thailand and yet women are still lured here, in their droves, to be part of this lucrative industry. Journalist Patrick Abboud travelled to Thailand to uncover this booming black market and find out more about the women that literally have their wombs up for rent. During his investigation he uncovered the untold horrors and risks associated with international commercial surrogacy. Abboud, told news.com.au that while commercial surrogacy was highly illegal in Thailand agencies happily existed under the noses of authorities.
He said surrogates were being exploited and agencies were ready and willing to cash in on them and the future parents. During his trip he interviewed one Australian couple whose daughter was born to a surrogate as well as women at the centre of this lucrative industry.
The couple, James and Mikey, told Abboud they travelled to Thailand after exhausting all other options for parenthood. International commercial surrogacy is banned in New South Wales, Queensland and the ACT, which means babies born overseas aren’t allowed back into the country. The men, who went above and beyond to ensure their surrogate was taken care of both financially and physically, revealed just how badly they wanted a baby. “We wanted a family and we wanted to get it done and we just went over there and went full steam ahead and did what we needed to do … when it comes down to it, people are going to do what they need to do to get their families.”
After two trips to Thailand to provide sperm and for the birth of their little girl, they got their daughter, now four months old, back into Australia through a complex set of loopholes within different federal and state laws. They said despite the threat of being charged as criminals, they would do it all over again. And while this couple and their surrogate had a happy ending, Abboud questions the price surrogates really pay for having another person’s child.
He said Thailand was open to exploitation because of the lack of legislation to protect women and, like any industry in a country with vulnerable or impoverished people, there is “inevitably a black market spawned to take advantage of them”.
“Many of the agencies, none of which would take part in my interviews, told me their surrogates are paid between $10-15,000, yet one couple I spoke with said they spent between $40-50,000, so that’s quite a difference. “These same agencies told me surrogates weren’t married or hadn’t had other children but that wasn’t always the case. “Essentially these women are wombs for hire.”
And when he did get to speak to surrogates, Abboud said it was clear their “minders” were telling them what to say. One surrogate named Parnee from New Life Thailand, a popular agency for gay couples, denied she was being exploited but admitted money was a driving factor in luring Thai women into the industry. “I’m 23 years old, I’ve been pregnant for three months and two weeks,” she said. “No one forced me to become a surrogate … one of my relatives was a surrogate mother before and she is doing it again now. She told me that it’s a good thing and you get paid at the same time.”
Abboud said the demand meant women from nearby countries were also being trafficked into Thailand with the promise of work, but were instead being forcibly impregnated against their will.