Surrogacy to be legalised for foreigners

Surrogacy to be legalised for foreigners

Authorities seek to promote high-standard services in Thailand and also prevent trafficking

A health professional trains expectant mothers in Khon Kaen in 2019. (Bangkok Post file photo)
A health professional trains expectant mothers in Khon Kaen in 2019. (Bangkok Post file photo)

Authorities are preparing to change the surrogacy law to welcome foreign couples to have surrogate babies in Thailand, according to the Department of Health Service Support.

Under the current law, formally known as the Protection for Children Born through Assisted Reproductive Technologies Act, surrogacy service users must be Thai, said Arkhom Praditsuwan, the deputy director-general of the department.

The amendment would allow foreign couples to seek surrogacy services in the country. They could bring in prospective surrogate mothers or choose Thai women for the role.

A department committee is currently drafting the relevant regulations.

"If the bill passes, it will be the first of its kind in the world,” said Mr Arkhom. “Foreigners are paying special attention to this issue. When this is liberalised, the health economy should be quite active.”

The bill would also spell out detailed methods to prevent human trafficking, he said.

Illegal surrogacy arrangements made by foreigners have long been a challenge for authorities in Thailand. As well, investigations are continuing into smuggling of frozen semen, eggs and embryos into and out of the country.

The current Act took effect in 2015, with tough regulations to control surrogacy and a ban on its use by foreign couples after several high-profile scandals that led to a crackdown on an unregulated "wombs for hire" industry.

The law has since been helping many couples who have fertility problems, said Dr Sura Wisedsak, director-general of the department.

Fertility treatment is now offered at 115 facilities nationwide, consisting of 67 clinics, 31 private hospitals and 17 public hospitals.

Last year the number of newborn babies fell below 500,000 and the number is likely to decline further this year, he said.

Each year about 800,000 people die in the country and thus the Thai population is shrinking. Citizens over age 60 now account for 20% of the total population and the proportion is projected to reach one-third by 2030.

The success rate of fertility treatment in the country has been growing and the technology used is internationally recognised, Dr Sura said.

This year, he said, the department will also push for amendments to the act to, for example, allow women’s biological relatives aged 20-40 to donate eggs, and to permit women older than 55 to arrange for surrogacy mothers for their children.

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