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Monday 20 January 2020

Australia may intervene over baby

Surrogate mother Pattaramon Chanbua with baby Gammy, who has Down's syndrome, at a hospital in Thailand (AP)
Surrogate mother Pattaramon Chanbua with baby Gammy, who has Down's syndrome, at a hospital in Thailand (AP)

The Australian government is considering intervening in the case of a sick Down syndrome baby left with a Thai surrogate mother by Australian biological parents.

Pattaramon Chanbua, a 21-year-old food vendor in Thailand's seaside town of Sri Racha, is taking care of seven-month-old Gammy, who also has a congenital heart condition. His parents, who have not been identified in the media, took Gammy's healthy twin sister back to their home in Western Australia state.

Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison told Sydney Radio 2GB today that Ms Pattaramon "is an absolute hero" and "a saint", adding that the law surrounding the case "is very, very murky".

"We are taking a close look at what can be done here, but I wouldn't want to raise any false hopes or expectations," he said. "We are dealing with something that has happened in another country's jurisdiction."

Mr Morrison's spokesman, Julian Leembruggen, later declined to say what type of intervention the government was considering.

In Sri Racha yesterday, Ms Pattaramon said she was not angry with the biological parents for leaving Gammy behind, and that she hoped they would take good care of the boy's twin sister.

"I've never felt angry at them or hated them. I'm always willing to forgive them," she told the Associated Press. "I want to see that they love the baby girl as much as my family loves Gammy. I want her to be well taken care of."

Ms Pattaramon was promised 300,000 baht (£5,550) by a surrogacy agency in Bangkok, Thailand's capital, to be a surrogate for the Australian couple, but she has not been fully paid since the twins were born last December.

She said the agency knew about Gammy's condition four to five months after she became pregnant but did not tell her. It was not until the seventh month of her pregnancy when the doctors and the agency told her that one of the babies had Down syndrome and suggested that she have an abortion just for him.

Ms Pattaramon recalled strongly rejecting the idea, believing that having the abortion would be sinful. "I asked them 'Are you still humans?' I really wanted to know," she said.

An online campaign by the Australian charity organisation Hands Across The Water to help Gammy has raised around £120,000 since July 22.

Mora Kelly, founder of the Children First Foundation, which takes sick children from developing countries to Australia for medical treatment, said she had discussed with Hands Across The Water taking Gammy to Melbourne for heart surgery.

"I believe that this child should be able to access our healthcare system here in Australia," she told Australian Broadcasting Corp. "This child in essence... should be an Australian citizen."

ABC also reported that Gammy's biological father had denied intentionally abandoning his son in Thailand, and said he had not known his new daughter had a twin.

It is illegal to pay a surrogate mother in Australia and in some states, excluding Western Australia, it is also illegal to pay a surrogate living overseas. An Australian woman can act as a surrogate free of charge, but also has a right to keep the child rather than hand it over to the biological parents.

PA Media

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