In the wake of the Thai government's recent crackdown on commercial surrogacy, 150 Australian couples are waiting anxiously for permission to take home their babies who were born to Thai surrogate mothers, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.
On Thursday, at least two Australian couples were stopped by immigration officials at Bangkok's international airport, including a same-sex couple attempting to leave with their baby's surrogate mother.
Thailand's military rulers have fast-tracked draft laws to parliament that have banned commercial surrogacy, except in cases that involve family members. Thai surrogate mothers can now be charged with a criminal offense, notes the Guardian.
The new laws come in the wake of two recent scandals. One case concerns a Japanese businessman suspected of fathering 15 children with 11 surrogate mothers, according to the Herald. The other involves Australian couple David and Wendy Farnell, who allegedly abandoned their son Gammy after learning he had Down syndrome, leaving Thailand only with his twin sister. The parents had originally opted to terminate Gammy, but the surrogate mother refused.
Once these cases gained national attention, several Thai fertility clinics were raided by the government and shut down, reports the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. According to the Herald, families with surrogate children in Thailand — including an unnamed number headed by same-sex parents — may have to wait several months before they can take their children home.
While international attention has turned to Thailand in the wake of this controversy, cases of parents choosing to abort children with disabilities and facing pushback from their surrogate mothers can happen in any country where surrogacy relationships occur.
One San Francisco-based couple, Keston and Andrea Ott-Dahl, recalled their own ordeal in a conversation with The Advocate.
"We were surrogating for another lesbian couple when the intended mamas backed out when we discovered the baby has Down syndrome," Keston Ott-Dahl says. She and Andrea chose to keep their daughter Delaney, now 1 year old, despite being encouraged by the surrogate mothers and their doctor to terminate.
"As gay marriages and families become legal in the states, more gay couples will be using surrogates," Ott-Dahl tells The Advocate. "What happens when a baby being carried by a surrogate is diagnosed with a disability? It opens up not only a moral, but a legal, can of worms."