Recent news of an abandoned baby via a surrogate raises questions regarding morality. The background is as follows: An impoverished 21-year-old mother in Thailand answered a Facebook ad to become a surrogate mother, a woman who bears a child on behalf of another woman. She had been seeking to supplement her family’s salary. Her income and her husband’s, totaling the equivalent of just over $620 per month, were insufficient to support their 6-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter.
The result shocked the world. The couple, from Australia, abandoned their baby to the surrogate. The world is now asking how they could have done this.
The laws in Australia mean that commercial surrogacy is not allowable. Instead, Australians may work with an altruistic surrogate who does not receive any payment beyond medical and other reasonable expenses. The couple therefore hired an international agent to work with an independent surrogate overseas. The couple and the surrogate never communicated directly with one another.
Early in her second trimester, the surrogate, Pattaramon Chanbua, had concerns about her pregnancy and the doctor ran tests. The couple was informed that one of the twins carried by Ms. Pattaramon had Down’s Syndrome. However, the couple did not tell Ms. Pattaramon until her seventh month.
At this point, the couple tried to persuade Ms. Pattaramon to have an abortion and let her know that this was technically possible. She was very much opposed to doing so on the grounds of her moral and religious beliefs as a Buddhist. She said she would raise the baby, Gammy, herself. However, because Gammy has a life-threatening heart condition, she was in a financial dilemma. She asked the agent for 40 percent more money to provide surgery for him.
Ms. Pattaramon met the Australian couple when they came to get the baby girl one month after the twins were born on December 23, 2013. Ms. Pattaramon did not speak directly with the couple because of the language barrier. She signed the contract provided to her. Without an advocate, she unwittingly agreed to receive only 20 percent more (half the amount requested), which was insufficient to pay for the baby’s surgery.
What is at question here is the moral issue of the abandoned baby borne by the couple’s surrogate. The question arises as to when a couple’s responsibility begins and ends, when they provide the impetus as well as the genetic material for a child, even if the child is not carried in that woman’s womb? The next steps for Ms. Pattaramon and Gammy do not include the Australian couple.
Several attempts to reach out to local charities for financial assistance did not have positive results. After Ms. Pattaramon’s situation was publicized in the Thai media in late July, an Australian charity volunteered to fund private-hospital treatment for Gammy. In addition, public donations have been sent in response to an online appeal entitled “Hope for Gammy.” The current amount of donations for Gammy’s medical care is estimated to be close to $200,000.
It was Australia’s Immigration Minister Scott Morrison who raised the question of “moral responsibility” with regard to an abandoned baby from surrogacy. Coinciding with the online raising of funds, Mr. Morrison went on the air to discuss the moral responsibilities of those involved.
Despite her family’s financial difficulties, Ms. Pattaramon expressed publicly that she would take care of Gammy rather than give him to someone else to care for. She communicated that she would forgive the Australian couple for having abandoned Gammy.
She wanted to let the couple live their lives, saying that that would be the best for everyone concerned. She also emphasized that she would like the couple to love Gammy’s sister and care for her. The question of the abandoned baby borne as a result of a surrogate arrangement continues to raise questions of morality on a global scale.
By Fern Remedi-Brown
The Wall Street Journal
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Guardian Liberty Voice
Guardian Liberty Voice