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Details are emerging of a surrogate mother in Thailand left with a baby who has Down syndrome after she was hired to carry a surrogate baby for an Australian couple. While the surrogate mother claims the couple chose to only take the boy's twin sister with no disabilities, the couple — who remains anonymous — claim they had no knowledge of the twin boy and deny abandoning him. Who's telling the whole truth?
A surrogate's story
The surrogate who carried the twins is 21-year-old Pattaramon Janbua from Thailand, who has two young children of her own. She agreed to carry a baby as a surrogate for an Australian couple, in hopes that the $15,000 she would be paid might help her raise her two children in a better living situation. She claims that although doctors, the surrogacy agency and the biological parents were aware that the twin boy had Down syndrome, she was not told until she was seven months along in her pregnancy. At that time the agency contacted Pattaramon and told her that the biological parents requested she abort the fetus with Down syndrome. She objected to the abortion on religious grounds. "I told them he's already seven months. I am not going to," says Pattaramon. I can't do it." She went on to carry the twins full-term and gave birth six months ago, when the Australian couple took the baby girl. Pattaramon is caring for the baby boy — named Gammy — and thinks of him as one of her own. She says that she is not angry with the couple, and hopes they will take good care of the baby's twin sister.
Paying a woman to be a surrogate mother is not permitted in Australia, which allows money to be spent only on the cost of medical care and reasonable expenses. This encourages many Australian couples to head to Thailand or India to secure a surrogate. In Thailand, surrogacy is considered legal, but only when the surrogate is a blood relative of the couple seeking the baby. There are currently no laws in Thailand regarding surrogacy contracts, making agreements like this one much more difficult to monitor. While Gammy isn't the first baby abandoned by parents after a surrogacy arrangement, his case sheds new light on the increasingly complex area of surrogate births.
Couple claims they were unaware of baby boy
The couple in this case, who declines to be interviewed at this time, claims that they had no knowledge of the baby boy. They told an ABC 7.30 interviewer that they had saved for a long time to pay for a surrogate to carry their child and it had "taken every cent we have." They acknowledge the difficulties with the surrogacy process in Thailand, but deny any knowledge of their son. "We saw a few people at the hospital. We [didn't] know who the surrogate was — it was very confusing. There was a language barrier," the parents told ABC's 7.30 show. This whole situation just raises a lot of red flags.
In addition to being born with Down syndrome, Gammy also has a congenital heart condition that will require surgery. He is currently in a hospital in Chonburi province, Thailand, being treated for a lung infection. An online campaign in Australia by the charity organization Hands Across the Water has raised $227,900 to date toward Gammy's future care through a GoFundMe page. "Why does he have to go through all the hardships? I love him... He's like my child now," says Pattaramon.
Time will tell
We may never know for certain what the real story is in this case. Between parents who claim they weren't aware of their son to the surrogate mother who claims they asked her to abort the fetus with Down syndrome, it isn't quite clear who is being completely honest. But at the heart of this gut-wrenching story is a little 7-month-old boy who needs care and love — and who seems to be adored by his surrogate mother, who has no biological ties to him. Will authorities allow her to keep and raise Gammy as one of her own? What if the parents really didn't know about the baby boy, and they fight to gain custody?
This story tugged at my heartstrings because no matter what the outcome, there is a little boy who needs to be loved for who he is.