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Judge: 'Baby Gammy' was not abandoned and sister can stay with parents

18 April 2016

By Julianna Photopoulos

Appeared in BioNews 847

A court in Western Australia has ruled that Pipah, the twin sister of so-called 'Baby Gammy', who was born to a Thai surrogate in 2013, should remain with her parents in Australia.

Baby Gammy – real name Nareubet Minjaroen – made international headlines in 2014 amid allegations that he was left behind with his Thai surrogate mother last year. Pattaramon Chanbua, the surrogate, claimed that the intended parents, who are from Australia, took home only one baby after she had twins, leaving Gammy behind because of his disability (see BioNews 765) – a version of events that the intended parents, David and Wendy Farnell, have always denied.

Chanbua later applied for legal custody of Pipah after learning that Mr Farnell was a convicted child sex offender and had been imprisoned in the 1990s.

Chief Judge of the Family Court Western Australia, Justice Stephen Thackray, said that Pipah should remain with the Australian parents. 'Pipah should not be removed from the only family she has ever known in order to be placed with people who would be total strangers to her,' he said.

In making the declaration, Justice Thackray also found that the couple had not intended to leave baby Gammy behind and did not try to access a trust fund set up for him through donations, as had been alleged.

Instead, the couple had asked an employee of the Thailand Surrogacy agency they used to 'plead with Chanbua for them to have both children' but 'finally accepted that Chanbua would not allow this'.

'I am not persuaded that the Farnells ever asked for Chanbua to have an abortion ... nevertheless, Chanbua gained the impression that the Farnells only wanted the 'healthy' baby,' said Justice Thackray.

He added: 'Although I cannot be sure of all that was said at around this time, it is clear that Chanbua had fallen in love with the twins she was carrying and had decided she was going to keep the boy.'

The judge also acknowledged that 'while it is a matter of grave concern to leave any child in the home of a convicted sex offender', there is 'a low risk of harm if Pipah stays in that home'. He noted that the three-year-old would be traumatised if removed from her home, but has 'taken into account the measures that can be put in place to ensure Pipah is kept safe'.

Those measures include officers from the Department of Child Protection visiting at least three times a year by appointment, as well as additional unannounced visits. The family must also comply with a 'safety plan' developed for Pipah.

Gammy's case has raised difficult questions about international commercial surrogacy (see BioNews 766) and prompted Thailand to pass laws banning surrogacy for foreigners last year (see BioNews 791).

Justice Thackray said the case highlighted that 'surrogate mothers are not baby-growing machines, or gestational carriers'.

He added: 'The appalling outcome of Gammy and Pipah being separated has brought commercial surrogacy into the spotlight... This case serves to highlight the dilemmas that arise when the reproductive capacities of women are turned into saleable commodities, with all the usual fallout when contracts go wrong.'

SOURCES & REFERENCES
BBC News | 14 April 2016
 
The Telegraph | 14 April 2016
 
The Independent | 14 April 2016
 
WA Today | 14 April 2016
 
Family Court of Western Australia | 14 April 2016
 
Family Court of Western Australia | 14 April 2016
 

RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE

13 June 2016 - by Stephen Page 
A parliamentary inquiry into surrogacy laws in Australia has just reported its recommendations, but they don't go far enough and the country is likely to remain the world's largest exporters of intended parents...
16 May 2016 - by Ryan Ross 
A same-sex couple have won a custody battle in Thailand against their surrogate after she allegedly refused to allow them to leave the country with their baby because they were not 'an ordinary couple'...
09 May 2016 - by Antony Blackburn-Starza 
A federal parliamentary committee in Australia has recommended that commercial surrogacy should remain illegal in the country, but that altruistic surrogacy should be regulated at a national level...

23 February 2015 - by Julianna Photopoulos 
Thailand's parliament has passed a law banning surrogacy for foreign couples, after two scandals sparked worldwide attention last year...
26 January 2015 - by Julianna Photopoulos 
Baby Gammy, who was born with Down's syndrome to a Thai surrogate mother and was at the centre of a surrogacy scandal last year, has been granted Australian citizenship....
01 December 2014 - by Jenny Sharpe 
Thailand's interim parliament has voted in support of a law to ban its largely unregulated surrogacy trade.
04 August 2014 - by Antony Blackburn-Starza 
A child with Down's syndrome born to a Thai surrogate is reported to have been abandoned by the intended parents, an Australian couple, who have denied the allegations. Conflicting versions of the developing story have been reported....

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