Down Syndrome Interest Sparked by Thai Surrogate Mother

Down Syndrome

A Thai surrogate mother was left with an Australian couple’s baby when they found the child had Down syndrome, sparking interest in the condition. She had twins in December, but the couple only took the baby girl, leaving the boy with Down syndrome, Gammy, with her. Now the mother has gone public since Gammy is in the hospital with an infection in his lungs and has a congenital heart condition. The agency told her to get an abortion when tests showed there were abnormalities in her seventh month. She believed abortion would be sinful and responded, “Are you still humans? I really wanted to know.”

Australia is looking into granting Gammy Australian citizenship, which would make him eligible for free medical care. Pavena Hongsakul, a Thai advocate for women’s and children’s rights, stated, “This (surrogacy) is a worrying trend as it can lead to other problems, such as human trafficking.” Since the Thai surrogate mother went public, interest in Down syndrome has been sparked worldwide.

Michelle Sie Whitten, co-founder of Global Down Syndrome Foundation, has made it her mission to advocate and educate people to change the ignorance and fear. When amniocentesis showed the genetic disorder during her pregnancy, the counselor handed her a tissue and told her 80 to 90 percent of people terminate when they got the news and she could too. Now her daughter, Sophia, plays beautiful music on the piano, loves swimming and her friends at school and as her mother says, “has a pretty good darn life.” Michelle describes her as “differently abled.”

Down syndrome is the most common genetic disorder and cause of lifelong learning disabilities and developmental delays in children according to the National Down Syndrome Society. Children with Down syndrome may not live long and are often bullied or ridiculed due to misunderstanding of the condition. About one-third, if not 40 percent of Down syndrome patients are hypothyroid and it is not unusual for them to have small head circumference. Characteristics include upward-slanting eyes, a flatish nose, and short, stubby hands. The ears and teeth may be small or abnormally shaped. Down syndrome may be accompanied by heart disorders, poor vision or respiratory problems.

Down syndrome is the result of an abnormality in the number of chromosomes, the parts of the cell carrying genes, which determine hereditary traits. Usually people have 46 chromosomes, but a person with Down syndrome has 47. The condition happens on average in one out of every 1,000 births, to people of all nationalities and backgrounds. The risk of having a child with Down syndrome greatly increases after a woman reaches 45.

Now it is known that early intervention, a systematic program of exercises and therapy, greatly benefits children with Down syndrome. This commonly includes physical therapy, speech and language therapy, as well as occupational therapy. This aids in gross and fine motor skills, social development, language skills and self-help abilities. It takes them longer, but children with Down syndrome can achieve all the milestones. For example, a typical infant crawls between six to 12 months, while a Down syndrome baby might be between eight to 22 months.  The U.S. federal law, Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), mandates that schools provide a free, appropriate public education for children with disabilities starting at age three.

Children with Down syndrome are often friendly and loving, bringing joy to others around them. The Thai surrogate mother says she is interested in Gammy and not bothered by the Down syndrome, saying, “I chose to have him, I love him.” She is concerned about his twin sister saying, “I want to see that they love the baby girl as much as my family loves Gammy.” Briana Kei Maxino, Asia’s envoy to the Special Olympics Global Youth Activation Summit, graduated class valedictorian in a regular high school. Her father explains this shows us disability is not a reason not to achieve as long as a person has the capacity to dream.

By Laurie Stilwell


CBS Denver


National Down Syndrome Society


6 Responses to "Down Syndrome Interest Sparked by Thai Surrogate Mother"

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  3. Rita Joseph   August 12, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    Jeffrey, Down’s is a genetic condition, not a disease like polio or cancer for which a cure may be found.

    The horrible truth is that children with Down’s are being treated as ‘a disease’ not as children with a condition. The children themselves are identified prenatally, targeted for brutal elimination.

    Down’s syndrome is not a disease—so when you read articles claiming that Down’s can be eradicated, don’t be deceived. Down’s is a genetic variation present at the very beginning of life in every cell of the fertilized ovum, and remains present at every stage of life, from the embryonic and foetal stages to the new born babe, infancy, childhood, adolescence and adulthood. The only way to delete Down’s is to kill every person detected to have it, either before birth or after birth. And this killing programme has to be repeated with every generation. The condition is not inherited. It is a naturally occurring incidence of a third copy of the 21st chromosome in the human genome. Occurrence varies with age—in general, about one in 700; for older women, about one in 550; and in young women to the age of 20, about one in 1200.

  4. Jeffrey Kraus   August 12, 2014 at 6:50 am

    We need better education to reach the 10% that did not terminate a defective fetus. Prevention of Down syndrome is the informed choice. Better education will improve the termination rate. Those who refuse to terminate a defective fetus are making the wrong choice just the same as those who refuse to vaccinate.

    Preventing genetic diseases such as Down syndrome is no more offensive to those with the disease than preventing other diseases such as polio or cancer.

    • akismet-63e2ca2a673fb10452d4cbe2d006c9df   August 13, 2014 at 10:22 am

      Preventing genetic diseases? Your comment is Uninformed and ignorant. I ask: Where will the madness stop? No one has perfect genes and can become “diseased” at any point in life. Would you kill us all?

  5. Rita Joseph   August 10, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    Decisions to abort a child because she/he has Down’s syndrome are to be treated under international human rights law as human rights failures, not as idiosyncratic, personal ‘choices’.

    It would appear that rejection of children like Gammy with Down’s is deeply entrenched and approved in many parts of the world..

    Around 90% of children detected to have Down’s are routinely aborted, many in the second trimester.

    More and more doctors are being co-opted into dehumanizing children with Down’s and treating the children themselves as a disease to be detected and progressively eliminated from the population through selective abortion.

    The popularity of this discriminatory and deeply offensive “choice” impacts gravely on the survivors.

    It is difficult to live confidently and comfortably in a society where some 90% of parents make the “informed choice” to prevent births of their children explicitly and openly because their children have been identified to have the same condition that the survivors are now living with.

    ‘Choice’ is no excuse for prejudice.


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