Thailand’s Department of Health Service Support (DHSS) is seeking to amend the law in order to allow for commercial surrogacy, which can reduce the illegal baby trade in the country.
Dr. Tares Krassanairawiwong, the director-general of DHSS, said yesterday that the agency is pursuing an amendment to the Protection of Children Born from Assisted Reproductive Technologies Act, which would permit women to be hired legally as surrogates.
A legal amendment would also allow foreigners to access surrogacy services in Thailand, he said.
Currently, women in Thailand who are not biologically related to a couple or individual seeking a surrogacy service due to a fertility problem are allowed to serve as surrogates only if couples or individuals do not have a blood relative capable of doing so.
Moreover, he said, the service must not be for profit. DHSS is currently examining what requirements a commercial surrogate mother would need to meet.
Requirements for surrogate mothers
In the event the amendment is passed, state officials will have to refer to the requirements when registering legal surrogates. He said details of surrogacy registration will be fleshed out after the changes to the ART Act are approved by authorities.
As part of the proposed criteria for becoming legal surrogate mothers, women must have previously been pregnant.
He said that previously pregnant women are physically ready for hormone injections that stimulate their eggs for artificial insemination.
Furthermore, a woman’s age and the number of times she has been pregnant are important factors that will be considered, Dr. Tares said. He added that some existing laws governing surrogacy will continue to apply.
In accordance with the current ART Act, women applying for permission to serve as surrogate mothers must be between 20 and 40 years old.
It is forbidden to have had a cesarean more than once or to have conceived naturally more than three times. A woman may not serve as a surrogate mother more than twice.
According to current law, a couple seeking surrogacy must also shoulder the entire cost. The amendment draft should be finalized within two months, Dr. Tares said last week.
Additionally, the DHSS will work to change a law related to freezing eggs, sperm, or embryos, said the doctor.
According to Dr.Tares, infertility is recognized by the World Health Organization as a disease, therefore efforts to correct the condition should be subsidized.
Surrogacy Agents Target Poor Hilltribe Women
Meanwhile, Surrogacy agents have caught the attention of authorities in Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai where its believed ethnic women have been paid to serve as surrogates for couples in China.
The Judicial Commission and the Attorney General’s Office (OAG) have been notified of these suspected crimes, but there is still insufficient evidence to identify the person who created them.
It was reported that a surrogacy agent hired ethnic women aged 25-35 years old because of their perceived good health and preferred those who were already married to avoid suspicions related to their pregnancies. In order to avoid being traced, the network switched to cash payments from bank transactions.
Local police notified the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) after finding a missing baby was likely the victim of a transnational surrogacy ring operating in the Central, North, and Northeast regions.
According to the DSI, commercial surrogacy is illegal under the Protection of Children Born Through Assisted Reproductive Technologies Act. The only exchange of guardianship that is legal is between a mother and a member of her family. The husband must also agree, as payment for the service is also prohibited.
In 2020, the DSI found that up to 300 babies had been smuggled out of the country before the Covid-19 pandemic. Since the border was closed, Thai nurseries have been caring for young children who were supposed to be sent abroad before their illegal separation from their parents.