Unwanted Down's syndrome baby Gammy given $200,000 trust fund

Published 04 August 2014  |  
(Photo: Hope for Gammy)

An international fundraising campaign has raised more than $200,000 (AUD, £120,000) to support the seven-month old boy with Down's syndrome allegedly abandoned by his Australian biological parents and left with his Thai surrogate mother.

The campaign for Gammy on the GoFundMe site was started on July 22 by anonymous fundraisers after a Thai newspaper reported the story.

The funds will now be handled by Australian Charity Hands Across the Water, and will not be given directly to the family but set up in a trust fund for his medical care and educational needs.

The surrogate, Pattaramon Chanbua, 21, claims the couple for whom she was carrying twins, asked to have one foetus aborted when she was seven months pregnant, despite knowing that he had Down's syndrome from four months. She reportedly refused on the grounds that it was against her Buddhist faith.

She said in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) that the father refused to look at Gammy in the hospital and then only took his twin sister back to Australia.

The biological parents reportedly deny knowing that there was a twin, and deny the allegation that they asked for the foetus to be aborted.

The parents, who have not been identified, claim that the surrogacy agency they dealt with has since closed down, according to an interview with the ABC.

Chanbua said she plans to report the agency to the police and is considering suing the Australian couple.

But while the story becomes a quagmire of contradictory reports, it raises serious ethical questions about both international surrogacy and the abortion of children with Down's syndrome.

Commercial surrogacy is illegal in Australia. Some countries, including France and Germany, have an outright ban on surrogacy, although Australia and the UK allow altruistic surrogacy, where the biological parents can pay for medical expenses.

Surrogacy law in Thailand is unclear and largely unregulated, and international commercial surrogacy is on the rise.

Chanbua was reportedly paid $16,000 (AUD) by the couple to carry the child.

"The money that was offered was a lot for me. In my mind, with that money, one, we can educate my children, we can repay our debt," she told ABC.

Thailand Surrogacy is one American firm, which, according to its website, has its management offices in Los Angeles and its 'fertility centres' in Bangkok.

The company offers four packages of fertility treatment, costing up to 200,000 Thai Bhat (about £3,700).

In India, where commercial surrogacy is thought to be worth $1 billion every year, there are surrogacy hostels where the women live together while pregnant.

Unlike many countries, Indian surrogates do not have responsibility for or rights to the children they carry.

Chanbua already has two other children, aged six and three, and said she could not afford Gammy's medical bills.

Gammy is currently in hospital in Bangkok being treated for a congenital heart condition and a lung infection.

As well as medical costs, the financial implication of raising a Down's syndrome child includes the fact that it is difficult for both parents to work.

Whether or not the biological parents did knowingly abandon Gammy, the profile the story has gained in the world's media also raises the issue of unwanted Down's syndrome babies.

In Thailand, abortion is illegal apart from cases of foetal impairment, rape or where there is a risk of harm to the mother. Foetal impairment could include the diagnosis of Down's syndrome.

Abortion law in Australia differs by state, but in Western Australia, where the biological parents live, an abortion after 20 weeks requires the approval of members of a panel appointed by the health minister.

In the UK it is legal to terminate a child with Down's syndrome after 24 weeks. In 2011 and 2012 90% of prenatal diagnoses of Down's syndrome were terminated, according to the National Down Syndrome Cytogenic Register for England and Wales.

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