Australian couples with babies born to Thai surrogate mothers face an up to six month wait in Thailand as authorities tighten rules, including a total ban on commercial surrogacy.
Under the tougher guidelines, up to 200 Australian couples with babies recently born to a surrogate mother face a lengthy court process to gain official clearance to take the baby out of the country.
The rule tightening comes after a same sex couple departed Thailand with a child last week after they and couples from the United States and France were prevented from leaving at Suvanabhumi International Airport.
A senior Australian official said the court approval requirement was included in pre-existing laws, but had not been enforced.
“Now because things have been shown to be going badly in certain instances, they are now actually implementing more strictly what on paper they were supposed to be doing anyway, which includes this court order,” the official told AAP.
“This court order could take between three to six months,” he said.
The official said Australian couples with babies born to Thai surrogate mothers now face an extended period in Thailand and must be prepared for that.
“People have to factor into their planning – factor immediately – their planning that they are going to have to be here looking after the baby in Thailand for a much longer period than they initially thought,” he said.
The Australian Embassy in Bangkok has been pressing the Thai government to allow for a “transition period” so couples can leave the country.
“I’m fairly confident that they will find a way through this and come up with some good transition arrangements but they are not quite there yet,” he said.
The case involving a West Australian couple taking a healthy twin baby girl home, but leaving behind her brother, with Down Syndrome, and a Japanese man allegedly fathering 15 surrogate children has triggered a sharp response.
The Thai military government is now moving quickly to impose tough surrogacy laws, making way for a total ban on commercial surrogacy.
Recent publicity has triggered waves of anxiety across the commercial surrogacy sector.
Officials told AAP on Monday some Thai surrogate mothers under care at private hospitals were being moved to public hospitals with doctors fearing a legal backlash.
There are also fears surrogate mothers may have abortions, as well as commissioning parents leaving babies behind in Thailand.
Chairman of the Medical Council of Thailand, Somsak Lolekha, said despite the legal concerns, there is a need to assist those involved, especially the children.
“We have to help them because for the sake of the baby, because of the child’s rights, we have to do everything for the rights of the child,” Somsak said.
“They should go back to the genetic parents or their intended parents and I think we have to try to help them so the parents can get their baby back to their home,” he said.