Thailand's parliament has passed a law banning surrogacy for foreign couples, after two scandals sparked worldwide attention last year.
'This law aims to stop Thai women's wombs from becoming the world's womb', Wanlop Tankananurak, a member of Thailand's National Legislative Assembly, told Reuters.
Under the new legislation, only married heterosexuals with at least one Thai partner are allowed to use surrogacy services. The couples must also have been married for at least three years. Fees are not allowed for the service and surrogate mothers must be Thai and over 25 years old.
Further to this, the surrogate mothers must be related to either the husband or wife seeking surrogacy. Anyone involved in commercial surrogacy, including agents, will face a maximum jail term of 10 years and a fine up to 200,000 Thai baht.
Thailand is a popular destination for surrogacy services for couples from Australia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the USA. However, its surrogacy industry was put in the spotlight last year with the 'Baby Gammy' case (see BioNews 765 and 787), where an Australian couple had allegedly abandoned their surrogate-born baby with Down's syndrome.
Consequently, in August last year, Thailand approved a draft law to make commercial surrogacy a criminal offence (see BioNews 767). The draft passed its first reading in November (see BioNews 782) and became legislation last week Thursday. However, Reuters reports that 'critics say making commercial surrogacy illegal could push the industry underground, making it harder for patients to access quality physicians and medical care'.
'We have no law enforcement', Dr Somsak Lolekha of the Thai Medical Council told BBC News. 'Just like drinking and driving. We have the law. But they never enforce it', he added.