A Commercial Surrogacy Gone Wrong in Thailand

It seems as if everyone is a victim in this story: The commissioning parents, the surrogate mother and the baby, too. Maneenuchanert disagrees. “I don’t feel sad for them,” she says. “Patidta is the only victim here, because they don’t allow her to see the baby. They see the baby as a product that comes from the supermarket. They’re only sad because their product has been damaged. And now they’re trying to intimidate her, tell her she’ll end up in prison if she doesn’t honor her contract.”

Bud Lake and Manuel Santos deny all of this. They’re getting ready to fight for Carmen the only place they can—in a Thai court. They hope to show that they’re better parents to Carmen than Kusongsaang would be, more financially and emotionally stable. Lake gives the example of a post on Kusongsaang’s Facebook page where she’s cradling a pistol. He says he’s been encouraged by the meetings he’s held with Thai Social Services who seem sympathetic. Still, Lake says all the lawyers they’ve talked to say their chances of winning in a Thai court are less than ten percent.

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And the thing that gets lost here—because of the Baby Gammy case and that of the Japanese Johnny Appleseed too—is that commercial surrogacy in Thailand has worked for many people, people who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to have children or afford to hire a surrogate. And it has worked for many surrogates too. Better regulation here—any regulation here—might have helped prevent both the Baby Gammy case and that of the Japanese Johnny Appleseed. But instead of regulation there’s now prohibition.

—from Michael Sullivan’s recent story “Outside the Womb,” part of the podcast series “Life of the Law.” Sullivan tells the nuanced tale of a gay couple whose surrogate mother reneged on her contract in Thailand, where the military-led government banned commercial surrogacy for international couples earlier this year. The Atlantic’s “The Hidden Costs of International Surrogacy,” by Darlena Cunha, dug into the industry last year.

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