For many intended parents who look abroad for their family-building process, they consider Thailand surrogacy as one of their options. After all, for many years, surrogacy in Thailand was a popular choice, offering lower costs than surrogacy programs in countries like the United States.
However, like with many international surrogacy programs, a lack of regulation soon brought an end to foreign intended parents using Thai surrogates. Several controversial cases came to light, which prompted the Thai government to enact new legislation regarding the Thailand surrogacy process — which still determines who can use surrogacy in Thailand today.
Is Surrogacy Legal In Thailand?
Today, surrogacy in Thailand is illegal for international intended parents. A federal law passed in 2015 formally made commercial surrogacy illegal for all intended parents (banning the surrogacy process completely for international intended parents). The commercial process had been forcibly shut down by the military government since 2014.
The only people who can complete surrogacy in Thailand today are married heterosexual Thai couples. At least one spouse must hold Thai nationality, and the couple must have been married for at least three years. Singles of all sexualities and homosexual couples are banned from completing a surrogacy in Thailand, even if they are Thai citizens.
In addition, any surrogate must be a sibling of one member of the couple. She must be married, have her husband’s consent for the surrogacy process and have her own child.
In order to crack down on the commercial business of assisted reproductive technology, any selling of ovum, sperm and embryos is outlawed in Thailand, too.
As you can see, Thailand surrogacy is not only impossible for international intended parents but also incredibly difficult for any Thai citizens to complete. In its current legal state, surrogacy in Thailand is ill-advised for intended parents.
Why Has Thai Surrogacy Been Banned?
There were two main cases that caused the government to restrict the commercial Thailand surrogacy process. Both of these controversial situations came to light in 2014, which is when the military government began to forcibly shut down surrogacy centers.
The “Baby Gammy” Case
The bigger of these two controversies was the “Baby Gammy” case. When Australian couple Wendy and David Farnell traveled to Thailand for surrogacy, their process was successful at first; their surrogate became pregnant with twins. However, once the children were born, the couple returned to Australia with only their daughter, Pipah.
Their son had been born with Down syndrome, and the surrogate alleged that the couple had abandoned him because of his disability after she had refused their request of selective termination. Meanwhile, David Farnell said the clinic’s doctor had only informed them they had a daughter (the agency no longer existed to corroborate that claim).
The surrogate ended up taking in the son, whom she named Gammy, and eventually applied for custody of Pipah, as well. While her request was denied when a court ruled the Farnells had not legally abandoned their son, information that David Farnell was formerly imprisoned as a child sex offender further complicated the matter.
The uproar about the case brought to light the complications of an unregulated surrogacy process in Thailand. It quickly made national headlines, and the Thai government began taking steps to restrict the surrogacy process soon after.
The Mitsutoki Shigeta Case
Around the same time, another controversy surrounding Thailand surrogacy was made public. After raiding a house in Bangkok, police discovered nine babies born via surrogate to one Japanese businessman, Mitsutoki Shigeta. It was discovered that he had fathered 16 or more children total and planned to continue having children as long as he lived, with the founder of the clinic claiming he wanted 10 to 15 babies a year.
While Shigeta said he had the financial means to care for all of the children and simply wanted a large family, Interpol started an investigation for two possible motivations: child trafficking and exploitation of children. Shigeta was eventually awarded custody of three of his children, with the rest under the care of child protection services. He continues to petition for paternal rights to the rest of the children.
This case was another motivation for Thai officials to restrict surrogacy in Thailand, which they did that same year by forcibly shutting down all commercial surrogacy programs. The legal regulations would come the following year and remain in place today.
Will Thai Surrogacy Ever Be Legal Again?
The Thai government is not currently reviewing any new regulations for Thailand surrogacy, and it’s reasonable to expect that they won’t any time in the near future. The surrogacy scandals their country has been embroiled in have likely scared Thai officials from opening up the surrogacy process again until there can be more effective ways of regulating the process. Because Thailand surrogacy was such a popular option, it would require great resources to properly regulate across the country.
Like with other countries where surrogacy is illegal, it’s likely that the Thailand surrogacy process will continue to exist illegally. This will put intended parents and surrogates in more danger than before. If you are considering an international surrogacy in Thailand, know that you cannot complete it legally and safely — and any program that claims to be able to do so is lying.
For a safer surrogacy process, you should choose a country like the United States, where compensated surrogacy is not only legal but provides a well-regulated and safe process to add a child to your family. To learn more about the surrogacy options available to you, speak with an experienced surrogacy agency.
Are you interested in learning more about surrogacy or starting the process? Complete our form to request free surrogacy information now.