BUNBURY – The Australian couple who allegedly left a Down’s syndrome baby in Thailand with its surrogate mother are due to speak publicly for the first time this weekend.
Gammy’s case sparked international outrage when it emerged the Australian couple returned from Thailand with a baby girl born to the surrogate mother, but left her twin Gammy, who has Down’s, behind.
Gammy, now seven months old, is being treated for a lung infection in a hospital east of Bangkok and also has a congenital heart defect.
In a statement released ahead of their appearance on the Australian TV show 60 Minutes, David and Wendy Farnell said they would like Australia to hear their side of the story before passing judgement on them.
They also said they have been cooperating with the Department of Child Protection since Wednesday morning, “and will continue to do so”.
On Thursday, Child protection officers confirmed they have spoken with the couple and are in the process of assessing the baby girl’s safety and well-being.
The couple, who live in Bunbury, Western Australia, also insisted they “were feeding their dog every day” until it was removed by animal welfare authorities.
A trailer for the interview shows a tearful Farnell saying: “We wanted to bring him with us […] We had to try and get out as fast as we could”.
The surrogate mother Pattharamon Chanbua claims the couple asked her to have an abortion and left Gammy behind because of his disability. The couple initially denied this claim to Australian media, saying they did not know Gammy existed.
But Ms Chanbua, 21, says the father met the twins but only took his healthy twin sister.
Local media has since claimed court documents released by the Supreme Court of Australia Farnell was jailed in 1997 for a minimum of three years for sex offenses involving three girls aged under 13.
Tom Malone, the Executive Producer of 60 Minutes, said the couple would not be paid for their appearance. Instead, the program will be donating an undisclosed sum to the Hands Across the Water charity, which is raising money for Gammy’s care.
Mr Malone’s statement added: “60 Minutes has not in any way interfered with any inquiries by the Western Australian Department of Child Protection, or Western Australian Police.”
Meanwhile in Bangkok, about 50 Australian couples’ dreams of having surrogate children have been shattered after Thai authorities linked their Bangkok clinic with a suspected international “baby factory” trafficking syndicate said to be behind at least 14 babies destined for overseas.
On Friday, the forced closure of the most popular IVF clinic for Australians in the Thai capital, All IVF Center, has raised fears Thai surrogate mothers will abort their babies after losing support from the centre.
An estimated 50 Australian couples have agreements with the clinic in central Bangkok but now cannot contact their Thai surrogates. The fate of the embryos of Australians stored at the clinic is unknown.
The closure of All IVF on Friday night has shocked surrogacy organizations in Australia already alarmed that a crackdown on Thailand’s booming surrogacy business has left an estimated 150 Australian couples uncertain about the future of their babies.
Sam Everingham, founder of Surrogacy Australia, says the closure of All IVF is causing “great concern among dozens of Australians anxious about the medical and psychological welfare of their pregnant surrogates”.
Mr Everingham has appealed to Thai authorities to ensure All IVF’s surrogates are safe and that biological parents will be reunited with their babies at birth.
“Neither surrogates nor intended parents were committing a crime under Thai law when they engaged with the clinic,” he said. “The Thai government needs to respect this rather than adopting a heavy handed approach which callously disregards the well-meaning Thai surrogates, intending parents and infant children unwittingly caught up in this maelstrom.