AN AUSTRALIAN COUPLE accused of abandoning their baby who has Down syndrome to a Thai surrogate mother have said she has “misled” the world over what happened, according to a friend of the family.
The story broke last week that the parents had allegedly abandoned their baby boy and taken his twin sister home with them after a surrogate gave birth to the children.
Child sex offences
The Australian father accused of abandoning Gammy has convictions for child sex offences, reports said today, as the surrogate mother said she was willing to take back the boy’s twin sister if the allegations were true.
The revelations came as the man and his wife claimed the Thai woman who gave birth to Gammy had misled the world over what happened.
Australian Associated Press said court documents show that a man, believed to be Gammy’s 56-year-old father, was convicted for sexually molesting three girls.
State broadcaster ABC added that he was jailed for sexually molesting two girls under the age of 10 when he was in his 20s. He was also accused in 1997 of another six charges of indecently dealing with a child.
Other reports said child protection services had been called in to investigate his “suitability”, although they were unable to confirm this to AFP and police had no comment.
The surrogate mother, Pattaramon Chanbua, has insisted she will raise seven-month-old Gammy after saying the biological parents at first requested an abortion and then walked away when they learned of his condition.
A fundraising site set up for Gammy has seen over €231,000 being donated by people all over the world.
The couple are said to live in Bunbury, south of Perth.
In interviews with the Australian press, Gammy’s surrogate mother Chanbua has insisted she will raise the seven-month-old child.
She had said his biological parents at first requested an abortion and then walked away when they learned he had Down syndrome.
But the Australian couple said in a statement, issued through the friend to their local newspaper the Bunbury Mail, the allegations were false and they did not know he had Down syndrome, although they were aware he had a congenital heart condition.
The friend, a woman, told the newspaper:
Gammy was very sick when he was born and the biological parents were told he would not survive and he had a day, at best, to live and to say goodbye
The birth of the twins was supposed to take place at a major international hospital in Thailand but Pattharamon went to another facility, which made the surrogacy agreement void, according to the newspaper.
This meant that the couple had no legal rights to the babies although the surrogate mother finally agreed to hand over the girl, the report said.
The friend said:
The biological parents were heartbroken that they couldn’t take their boy with them and never wanted to give him up, but to stay would risk them losing their daughter also.
She added that allegations that the couple “ignored” Gammy when they visited the hospital were untrue and they had bought gifts for both infants.
They prayed for Gammy to survive but were told by doctors that he was too sick, not because of the Down syndrome but because of his heart and lung conditions and infection.
The friend added that the couple spent two months in Thailand but due to military unrest at the time felt they had no option but to leave without Gammy.
“This has been absolutely devastating for them, they are on the edge,” she said.
‘I have never lied’
The case has sparked debate on international surrogacy.
Commercial surrogacy, in which a woman is paid to carry a child, is not permitted in Australia but couples are able to use an altruistic surrogate who receives no payment beyond medical and other reasonable expenses.
Surrogacy Australia said couples are increasingly choosing to find women willing to carry their baby overseas, with several hundred each year travelling to India, Thailand and the United States.
Pattaramon insisted to AFP she had been transparent.
I have never lied or hidden anything. The truth is the truth, it’s up to society to make their own judgement.
Pattaramon has said she agreed to carry another Thai donor’s egg fertilised by the Australian man, reportedly aged 56, in exchange for around US$14,900.
An agency, which she refuses to name for legal reasons, acted as the go-between.
She says the agency told her the parents wanted her to have an abortion once medical tests revealed the boy had Down’s syndrome, but she refused.
Abortion in Thailand
Abortion is illegal in Thailand, reports AFP – except in very specific cases including rape and to protect the mother’s health – and it also runs counter to beliefs in the overwhelmingly Buddhist kingdom.
Thai health authorities say it is also illegal to pay for surrogacy and someone who agrees to carry a baby must be related to the intended parents.