Monday, August 4, 2014

Surrogacy in China and in Thailand

The NY Times carries this story about the illegal market for surrogates/babies in China: China Experiences a Booming Underground Market in Child Surrogacy,

The WSJ carries this story about the legal market in Thailand: Abandonment of Thai Baby Raises Questions on Global Surrogacy Rules--Australian Couple Leaves Thai Mother With Down Syndrome Baby

(While paid surrogacy is illegal in China, it is legal in the U.S., and an ad for this surrogacy agency ran alongside the story when I read it...)

The Times story on China begins this way:
WUHAN, China — In a small conference room overlooking this city’s smog-shrouded skyline, Huang Jinlai outlines his offer to China’s childless elite: for $240,000, a baby with your DNA, gender of your choice, born by a coddled but captive rural woman.
The arrangement is offered by Mr. Huang’s Baby Plan Medical Technology Company, with branches in four Chinese cities and up to 300 successful births each year.
As in most countries, surrogacy is illegal in China. But a combination of rising infertility, a recent relaxation of the one-child-per-family policy and a cultural imperative to have children has given rise to a booming black market in surrogacy that experts say produces well over 10,000 births a year.
The trade links couples desperate for children with poor women desperate for cash in a murky world of online brokers, dubious private clinics and expensive trips to foreign countries.

“China’s underground market shows that there is a need for surrogacy in society,” said Wang Bin, an associate professor at Nankai University’s law school. “And where there is a need, there is a market.”

The WSJ story on Thailand (and Australia) begins with this:

SYDNEY—An Australian couple's abandonment of a baby with Down syndrome with his Thai surrogate mother has raised questions about a trade that is banned in many developed countries but can be lucrative for women on low incomes elsewhere.
Australian officials said they were looking into issues relating to surrogacy in Thailand after expressing concern at how Pattharamon Janbua, a 21-year-old Thai street food vendor, was left to raise her baby son by the unnamed Australian couple, who took only his twin sister instead. She does not have Down syndrome.
"It's a very, very sad story," said Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, basing his remarks on earlier media reports rather than an official briefing. "It illustrates some of the pitfalls involved in this particular business."
The plight of Ms. Pattharamon and her son, Gammy, underscores what can go wrong in cross-border commercial surrogacy deals, where a mother agrees to carry a child on behalf of another woman for profit.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Ms. Pattharamon said she feared being plunged deeply into debt by the high medical costs of caring for a son with disabilities, and claimed that the agent who brokered the surrogacy arrangement with the Australian couple reneged on paying her in full. Efforts to reach the agent weren't successful.
"The alleged circumstances of the case raise broader issues relating to surrogacy in Thailand," said a spokeswoman for Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. "Australian Government agencies are examining these issues in consultation with authorities in Thailand."
Laws on surrogacy differ around the world. While many countries, including Germany and France, prohibit women from carrying another woman's child altogether, others ban payments that go beyond compensation for medical expenses, or limit the use of fertility treatments or donor eggs. In Australia and the U.S., laws on surrogacy also vary from state to state.
For many childless couples, the answer is to look overseas where there are fewer restrictions. In Thailand, for example, commercial surrogacy is a medical gray area. There are no laws directly relating to the practice of surrogacy, and it is largely unregulated. As a result, many agencies and health clinics in Thailand aim to profit from matching surrogate mothers with egg donors