A street vendor in Thailand signed up as a surrogate mother, believing the pay would be a blessing to her family, but she is now reporting the abuse. Pattharamon Janbua, a 21-year-old mother of two, and her husband averaged about $620 a year. When a Facebook ad offered to pay over $10,ooo to carry someone ele’s baby, Janbua contracted with an Australian couple, but in her second trimester tests showed abnormalities. The information was sent to the Australians, but it was not given to Janbua. During her seventh month, the agency told her the couple wanted her to have an abortion. Janbua could not agree to that.
On December 23, Janbua gave birth to twins. The little girl was healthy, but the boy had Down’s syndromeas well as a hole in his heart. The Australian couple came and took the girl home with them and left the boy, named Gammy, with Janbua. The agency paid her one-half of the agreed on price. Now Janbua has gone public with her dilemma, not knowing how she can fund his medical needs.
An Australian charity stepped forward to help pay for his hospital treatment and an online appeal called Hope for Gammy brought in $216,000 in donations. This travesty has sparked debate around the globe on the whole issue of surrogacy with its blessings and its abuses.
Surrogacy is where a woman agrees to be implanted with an embryo and bear a child on behalf of another couple. Most countries only allow what is called altruistic surrogacy, in which the woman carrying the child receives payment only for her expenses. Only a few countries allow paid surrogacy. The practice is illegal in China, but the black market “produces” well over 10,000 babies every year. In Thailand, India, Ukraine and Mexico the practice is widespread. In Thailand, it has become a lucrative multi-million dollar business, although now Thai authorities have begun to crackdown.
In gestational surrogacy, the embryo is created in the lab, sometimes using eggs and sperm from the intended parents, or from donors, and then transferred to a surrogate. Often surrogacy involves twin or triplet pregnancies with the possibility of selective reduction. Most contracts stipulate an abortion for serious defects. This conflicts with many pro-life views.
There are many scams involving surrogacy. The most common problem is leaving the surrogate mother with unpaid medical bills. Commonly it is believed that the surrogate mom would try to back out of the proposition, but statistics show it is usually the intended parents who renege on the contract. International would-be parents often pay in excel of $150,000. Of these dollars only $20,000 to $30,000 goes to the surrogate mother. The remainder goes to testing, lawyers, fertility clinics, egg donors, or the surrogacy agency. Often couples will pay tens of thousands of dollars only to hear the agency has gone bankrupt or find there never was an agency.
Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban had Faith Margaret, the biological daughter of both Urban and Kidman, through a gestational carrier. Elton John and his partner of 17 years, David Furnish, obtained their son Zachary through an agency. They are choosing surrogacy again and are expecting twins.
Many regard surrogacy as an exploitation of women. As Abby Lippman of Canada states: “We do not pay for blood or semen, we do not pay for eggs or sperm or babies.” Janbua desires to care for Gammy as her own. She states, “I treat him like my other children, never think you are not my child and I do not care for you, never.” As she explains, “I chose to have him, not to hurt him. I love him.”
By Laurie Stilwell