Thailand's military junta has pledged a transitional period of leniency in cases of babies born to surrogate mothers, as it prepares to tighten its laws on the country's surrogacy industry.
A draft law initially approved by the Government, but which still needs to be approved by the King, aims to prevent the exploitation of Thai women by making commercial surrogacy a criminal offence. Under the law, anyone found guilty of commercial involvement with the trade could face a ten-year prison sentence, reports the Daily Mail.
The new law will only permit altruistic surrogacy arrangements to be carried out within highly circumscribed situations; surrogacy will be restricted to married, heterosexual and infertile couples who have instructed a blood relative to act as a surrogate.
Initial approval of the law has led to reports of surrogates currently avoiding healthcare in pregnancy or hospitals turning surrogates away out of fear of the potential legal repercussions. Foreign couples have also been caught up in the crackdown, with a number of people trying to leave the country with surrogate-born children reportedly held up and prevented from leaving by immigration officials (see BioNews 767).
The news has raised concerns that hundreds of foreign parents who have already initiated and or completed the surrogacy process within Thailand might now have to overcome lengthy and expensive administrative hurdles in order to obtain the necessary documentation required for their departure. But speaking on his weekly TV show, General Prayuth Chan-Ocha, chief of the country's militarily junta, said until the new law has been officially implemented, surrogacy arrangements will be handled on a case-by case basis.
The Protection of Children Born from Assisted Reproductive Technologies Bill, first drafted in 2004, was approved by Thailand's military government after being fast tracked following a spate of recent surrogacy scandals in the country (see BioNews 765 and 768). The National Council for Peace and Order, Thailand's government, has also conducted a number of raids on fertility clinics in the country and have reportedly closed a number of them down.