Commercial surrogacy will be permanently banned in Cambodia if a new law drafted by the country's Women's Affairs Ministry is approved.
The proposed legislation follows a temporary ban on all surrogacy arrangements instituted in November 2016, which left many foreign couples in legal limbo, unable to obtain travel documents to take home their children born to Cambodian surrogates (see BioNews 876). It was breach of this ban which led to the imprisonment of Australian nurse Tammy Davis-Charles and two of her colleagues earlier this month (see BioNews 912).
'The main content of the law is that we absolutely ban commercial surrogacy, and any actions that get benefit or profit from surrogacy are completely banned,' said Phon Puthborey, spokesperson for the Women's Affairs Ministry, according to The Cambodian Daily.
It is hoped that the surrogacy law in Cambodia will prevent the exploitation of vulnerable women. Sam Everingham, global director of Australian non-profit organisation Families Through Surrogacy, told the newspaper: 'The key issues here are avoiding exploitation of ill-prepared, poorly screened surrogates who might later regret their decision. In a country with high levels of corruption, it may be impossible to monitor that appropriate screening and compensation are provided.'
Cambodia is the most recent country in the region to ban commercial surrogacy, or surrogacy for foreign parents. India, Nepal and Thailand have all implemented such laws in recent years, as the industry moves from one country to another (see BioNews 913, 817 and 791).
While commercial surrogacy is to be completely banned in Cambodia, the legalisation of altruistic surrogacy is already being discussed. Ros Sopheap, a spokeswoman for Gender and Development for Cambodia, told The Phnom Penh Post that she feels it is 'too early' for legalisation of altruistic surrogacy in Cambodia, adding that it could occur 'in the future, when Cambodia has more equal education between poor and rich.'
Everingham noted that 'the distinctions between commercial and altruistic surrogacy in a number of countries is not significant.' He added that in countries such as the UK, payments to cover surrogates' expenses are comparable to fees in commercial surrogacy. He told the Post: 'Altruistic surrogacy is simply a more palatable social policy.'