01/19/2016, 19.29
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Thai Church fights surrogacy

by Weena Kowitwanij

For Chertchai Lertjitlaeka, a Camillian doctor, womb rental "violates the relationship of honesty and transparency between spouses." After some scandals, Thailand banned surrogacy for foreign couples last year. For human rights lawyer, “Whilst reproductive health is everyone’s right, surrogate mothers and their husbands know nothing of the consequences, including long term effects, of chemical substances that are administered”.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) – Uterus rental "is an illicit practice that violates a mother’s duty of love, a couple’s relationship and their reproductive responsibility,” said Chertchai Lertjitlaeka, a medical doctor, a bioethicist, and a member of the Congregation of St. Camillus, who reiterates the Church’s opposition to surrogacy by all means.

The issue is currently centre stage in Thailand. Over the years, the country had become a favourite destination for foreign couples (straight and gay) looking for a uterus to "rent" (going price: US$ 13,000). Recently, Thai authorities enacted legislation to regulate the practice and defend children’s rights.

On 30 July 2015, the Act to Protect Babies Born through Assisted Reproductive Technologies came into force, putting a stop to the uterus rental business. The new legislation bans commercial surrogacy and the buying and selling of sperm and eggs.

The only people entitled to such reproductive technologies are married or unmarried heterosexual couples without children. In addition, under the rules of the Medical Council of Thailand (MCT), a surrogate mother must be directly related to either parent, but cannot be one of the child's grandmothers.

The surrogate mother must already have been pregnant and must have her husband’s permission. The later cannot refuse to recognise the child as his son once he accepts.

Thai law, in fact, considers the woman who gives birth to the child as the mother, and those who apply for custody do not have an automatic right to the new born.

Last July, the authorities refused the request of a Thai woman who wanted to give her child in adoption to a US-Spanish gay couple, to be taken out of the country.

The ‘Act to Protect Babies’ was adopted after some scandals shocked the country. The first one involved a boy, Gammy, who was born to a surrogate Thai mother and abandoned by his Australian biological parents because he has Down syndrome. After a long legal battle, he lives with his surrogate mother Koy.

The second story involves a Japanese man, who was found to be the biological father of at least 16 children born to surrogate Thai mothers. Local media dubbed it the ‘baby factory’ case.

For Fr Lertjitlaeka, surrogacy is immoral “because pregnancy is specific to married couples. It is a matter of honesty, which requires respect between husband and wife", which is denied when a third person (the doctor) comes into the process through artificial insemination.

For Human rights lawyer and former member of National Human Rights Association Naiyana Supapueng there is an additional factor to take into account. "Whilst reproductive health is everyone’s right, surrogate mothers and their husbands know nothing of the consequences, including long term effects, of chemical substances that are administered to the woman. In some instances, they can also cause cysts or tumours."

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