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Australian nurse jailed for illegal Cambodian surrogacy

7 August 2017
Appeared in BioNews 912

An Australian nurse has been given a prison sentence after being found guilty of running an illegal surrogacy service in Cambodia.

Tammy Davis-Charles and two Cambodian colleagues were arrested a fortnight after authorities banned commercial surrogacy in November 2016. (see BioNews 879). All three have now been found guilty of recruiting foreign couples and Cambodian surrogates from a clinic in Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh, and also of faking documents to procure birth certificates for the newborns. They have each been sentenced to 18 months in jail, and fined.

During her trial, Ms Davis-Charles told the court: 'I asked three different lawyers about the law in Cambodia. I was told that there was no law about surrogacy in Cambodia and it was allowed.'

The nurse claimed said that her role was only to provide medical care to the surrogate mothers, but the court was not convinced. 'Tammy Davis-Charles was an intermediary between intended parents and Cambodian surrogate mothers,' said Judge Sor Lina in the ruling.

Ms Davis-Charles, who is originally from Melbourne, ran a surrogacy clinic in Thailand before authorities outlawed the practice in 2015 (see BioNews 791) after which she relocated to Cambodia. She is the mother of five-year old twin boys born via a Thai surrogate, whom she says she has not seen since her arrest.

During the trial, several women who acted as surrogates for Ms Davis-Charles testified that they were not coerced and were paid around US $10,000. It is believed that Australian couples were paying around US $50,000 for surrogacy in Cambodia, approximately one-third of what it would cost in Australia or the US.

When the Cambodian authorities outlawed international surrogacy, they reasoned that it is a form of people-trafficking.  Concerns about exploitation, and scandals such as the 'Baby Gammy' case in Thailand in 2014 (see BioNews 765) have motivated governments across south-east Asia to criminalise commercial and international surrogacy. As well as Thailand, India (see BioNews 866) and Nepal (see BioNews 817) have banned the practice in recent years.

Such is demand that the trade has already moved on to Laos, which currently has no regulations around surrogacy.

19 November 2018 - by Dr Melanie Krause 
A total of 18 people, including 11 pregnant women, arrested in Cambodia have been charged with offences relating to human trafficking for allegedly engaging in surrogacy for foreign couples...
16 July 2018 - by Dr Melanie Krause 
At least 32 pregnant Cambodian women have been charged for involvement in human trafficking...
2 July 2018 - by Dr Sam Sherratt 
Police in Cambodia have discovered 33 pregnant women who were working as part of an illegal surrogacy operation in Phnom Penh...
18 December 2017 - by Sean Byrne 
Congressman Trent Franks has resigned from the US House of Representatives, following claims of misconduct related to pursuing a surrogacy arrangement with a former staffer...
29 August 2017 - by Taqdeer Sidhu 
Commercial surrogacy will be permanently banned in Cambodia if a new law drafted by Women's Affairs Ministry is approved...
19 June 2017 - by Ryan Ross 
The trial of a nurse accused of running an illegal overseas surrogacy service began in Cambodia last week...
28 November 2016 - by Ryan Ross 
A fertility nurse in Cambodia has been arrested for her involvement in the commercial surrogacy industry, following a recent crackdown by authorities...
7 November 2016 - by Lucas Taylor 
The Cambodian Health Minster Mam Bunheng has published a directive appearing to ban all forms of surrogacy in the country...
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...
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