Australia may intervene in surrogate baby case


Thai surrogate mother Pattaramon Chanbua holds her baby Gammy, born with Down syndrome, at the Samitivej hospital in Chonburi province on Aug. 4. (Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images)
August 4

Australia’s government is considering intervening in the case of a baby with Down syndrome who was left with a Thai surrogate mother by his Australian biological parents, with a minister saying Monday that the child might be entitled to Australian citizenship.

Pattaramon Chanbua, a 21-year-old food vendor in Sri Racha, Thailand, is taking care of her 7-month-old surrogate baby, named Gammy, who also has a congenital heart condition. The baby’s parents, who have not been identified in the media, took Gammy’s healthy twin sister back to their home in Western Australia state.

Scott Morrison, Australia’s minister for immigration and border protection, told Sydney radio station 2GB on Monday that the law surrounding the case “is very, very murky.”

“We are taking a close look at what can be done here, but I wouldn’t want to raise any false hopes or expectations,” Morrison said. “We are dealing with something that has happened in another country’s jurisdiction.”

Morrison’s office later said in a statement that “the child may be eligible for Australian citizenship,” without elaborating.

Australian citizens are entitled to free health care.

In Sri Racha on Sunday, Pattaramon said that she was not angry with the biological parents for leaving Gammy behind and that she hoped they would take care of the twin sister they took with them.

Pattaramon was promised the equivalent of $9,300 by an agency in Bangkok to be a surrogate for the Australian couple, but she has not been fully paid since the children were born in December.

An online campaign by the Australian charity Hands Across the Water to help Gammy has raised more than $215,000 since July 22.

Mora Kelly, founder of the Children First Foundation, which brings sick children from developing countries to Australia for medical treatment, said she had discussed with Hands Across the Water the possibility of bringing Gammy to Melbourne for heart surgery.

But Peter Baines, founder and chairman of Hands Across the Water, said Pattaramon and her family’s wishes would need to be considered in any decision to fly Gammy to Australia.

Gammy was moved from a public to a private hospital on Saturday. Heart surgery has not been scheduled yet, Baines said.

The Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported that Gammy’s biological father denied intentionally abandoning his son and said he had not known that his new daughter had a twin.

It is illegal to pay a surrogate mother in Australia and in some states, excluding Western Australia, it is illegal to pay a surrogate living overseas.

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