Rich-Vaughn-Blog-Thailand-Surrogacy

Thailand Closes Shop on Foreign Surrogacy Business

Earlier this month, the Thai military government conducted an audit of the nation’s in vitro fertilization and surrogacy agencies, a review that ultimately led to what by all reports was a virtual shutdown of the industry in Thailand.

The Thai government’s crackdown may have been prompted by a recent flurry of media coverage about the darker side of surrogacy: reports of disabled babies being abandoned by their foreign intended parents, of surrogates being cheated out of compensation, and of unscrupulous practitioners preying on the vulnerabilities of intended parents and surrogates. Lending to the chaos was the fact that Thailand has no laws whatsoever governing surrogacy: the practice was not culturally acceptable but not overtly illegal. Following the government’s inspection of all 12 IVF agencies offering surrogacy services in Thailand it announced a list of stringent rules governing surrogacy that spell major concern and potential tragedy for many foreign intended parents.

As reported by the Sydney Morning Herald August 1:

Senior Thai health and legal officials threw Thailand’s booming surrogacy business into crisis on Wednesday when they declared that, according to Thai law, the only legal surrogacy cases were those in which a married couple cannot conceive a child and engage a blood relative to carry their child in an altruistic surrogacy arrangement.

They declared as illegal any surrogacy arrangement commissioned by an unmarried couple or a couple whose marriage is not legal in Thailand, such as a same-sex couple.
Any arrangement in which money was provided to the surrogate to carry the child was also illegal, they said.
And any foreigner removing a child from its mother to another country permanently without permission from Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs would be violating the country’s human trafficking laws.

These declarations have placed hundreds of intended parents (currently using surrogacy in Thailand) in a very difficult position.

Thailand in recent years has become a popular destination for intended parents from Australia, UK, the United States and Western Europe seeking lower-cost alternatives to surrogacy in the U.S. While in many parts of the United States surrogacy is legal and processes for parental establishment in place, as ABC News reported in 2013, “In the United States surrogacy can cost more than $150,000, but in Thailand it is only about $50,000.”

A few years back, India was a popular surrogacy destination. Similarly lurid headlines about exploitation and fraud on the part of agencies led to a tightening of regulations there. As ABC News reported last year, “The swing towards Thailand is the direct result of a decision by India to only grant medical visas for surrogacy to heterosexual couples who have been married for at least two years.”

Unlike in the U.S. however, the Thai surrogate is listed as the baby's mother on the birth certificate, and if she is married, her husband will be put down as the father.

The intending father, who provided the sperm, must get a DNA test in Thailand to prove he is biologically linked to the baby and then apply for an Australian [or country where the intended father resides] passport for the child.

Legal experts warn that this makes Thailand a legal minefield.

Now, as reports from several professional colleagues confirm, even that minefield is closed for business to all but a few foreign intended parents. As a colleague from Ireland writes, “it would appear now that the only available option for same-sex couples and singles is the USA.”

Those with pregnant surrogates, embryos or IVF procedures in process in Thailand are left in legal limbo, in some cases without even a way to contact their surrogates, writes Australian fertility law attorney Stephen Page of Harrington Family Lawyers. According to Family Law Weekly:

There are reports that all records from one Thai IVF clinic have been removed by the Thai military. Accordingly the parents already with surrogate pregnancies under way at that clinic will have no means of contacting the surrogate, will not know the whereabouts of the surrogate or know what will happen to their unborn babies.

This sad and scary situation has reaffirmed for me that foreign surrogacy should be approached only with extreme caution and meticulous research. Although I have no direct experience in Thailand, the take-away for our readers is buyer beware.

There's obviously a high cost to doing surrogacy in the U.S., which is why a lot of people look to India and Mexico and Thailand for the promise of cheaper alternatives. Unfortunately, the bargain deal too often comes with the added cost of a risky venture: statistically lower medical success rates, questionable medical and business practices, and an extremely unsafe legal landscape. Compare those high costs with that of surrogacy in the U.S., where success rates are high, quality control measures are in place, and there is a stable legal environment that will protect the intended parents' rights, and the steep investment starts to look more reasonable. As the evidence continues to affirm, go to a low-cost country for assisted reproductive technology procedures and you might find yourself having to do it all over again in the U.S.—and paying more in the long run because of it.

Rich Vaughn
Richard Vaughn
rich@iflg.net

Attorney Rich Vaughn is founder and principal of International Fertility Law Group, one of the world’s largest and best-known law firms focused exclusively on assisted reproductive technology, or ART, including in vitro fertilization (IVF), surrogacy, sperm donation or egg donation. Rich is co-author of the book “Developing A Successful Assisted Reproduction Technology Law Practice,” American Bar Association Publishing, 2017.

Peiya Wang
PEIYA WANG(王培娅)
Paralegal (律师助理)

Peiya Wang joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2015, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases and provides translation services for many of IFLG’s international clients. Peiya received her bachelor’s degree from Beijing Technologies and Business University, where she majored in Marketing. She moved to the United States in 2012 to attend Northeast University in Boston, Massachusetts, receiving a Master of Science degree in Global Studies and International Affairs in 2014. Peiya moved to Los Angeles in 2015 and received her paralegal certification from UCLA Extension. When away from the office, Peiya is a dragon boat paddler and a ballroom dancer, where she favors Rumbas and Cha-chas. She is fluent in Mandarin and English.

Luis Sosa
LUIS SOSA
Paralegal

Luis R. Sosa joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2016, where he enjoys pursuing his passion for family and reproductive law. While working toward his bachelor’s degree at Florida International University, Luis worked as a paralegal and legal assistant for family law litigation firms in Miami and Washington, D.C. As a paralegal and case manager for IFLG, Luis, who is bilingual in English and Spanish, manages surrogacy, egg donation and other reproductive law cases. In addition to spending time with husband Randy and dog Marty, Luis enjoys being outdoors and appreciating the arts.

Toni Hughes
TONI HUGES
Paralegal

After receiving her B.S. in Business Management, Toni joined IFLG to pursue her dream of working in the legal field. As a Paralegal with over 10 years of experience in the assisted reproduction technology field, Toni is our Managing Paralegal, responsible for training and managing our paralegal staff. From drafting legal documents to assisting our clients with post-birth matters, Toni embraces the challenge of learning something new in this field each day. Besides spending time with her son, Jordan, Toni enjoys exploring new things, cooking, spending time with family and friends, and serving as a Youth Advisor for “Next Generation.”

Miesha Cowart
MIESHA COWART
Financial Coordinator

Miesha Cowart joined IFLG as a financial specialist in 2014 following a successful career in development and business finance. Miesha previously worked for 10 years in the construction industry as a controller and for 13 years as Development Coordinator for the non-profit U.S. Fund for UNICEF. In her free time, Miesha works with “Next Generation” at her church. “They are my heartbeats!” she says of the youth in her community.

Kim
KIM DEVEREAUX
Paralegal

Kim has over 25 years of experience in the legal field and has worked exclusively in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 1999. Kim is a senior case manager of surrogacy and egg donation cases, and is also responsible for managing parental establishment cases and interacting with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorneys across the country. With three children of her own, Kim understands the importance of family and finds working in this area of law a rewarding experience.

Rich Vaughn
RICHARD B. VAUGHN
Founder

Attorney Rich Vaughn combined his personal passion as a father of twin boys born via assisted reproductive technology (ART) with more than 20 years of experience in business and technology law to build International Fertility Law Group. Today IFLG is one of the most successful and best-known law firms in the world focused exclusively on fertility law, helping thousands of intended parents through empathetic listening, compassionate guidance, and unmatched legal expertise. As an advocate for reproductive freedom, Rich also contributes his knowledge and time to improving the understanding and practice of ART law, most recently as a founder of and speaker at the first Cambridge University International Surrogacy Symposium held in June 2019, as immediate past chair of the American Bar Association ART Committee, and as a popular presenter to law schools, faculty and advocacy organizations all over the world.

Elizabeth Tamayo
ELIZABETH TAMAYO
Paralegal

Elizabeth received her Bachelors of Science degree in Criminal Justice from California State University of Los Angeles. Shortly after graduating, she continued her education at the University of California, Los Angeles where she obtained her Paralegal certificate. Elizabeth is fluent in Spanish and has been in the legal field since 2009. She is excited to be a part of the IFLG Team helping families realize their dreams.

Sunny Chien
SUNNY CHIEN
Paralegal

Sunny joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2017, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s international clients. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from California State University of Los Angeles, where she graduated cum laude. Sunny is bilingual in English and Mandarin and has extensive experience as a legal assistant and paralegal at Los Angeles-area law firms. She is excited to be part of the IFLG team. In her spare time, Sunny enjoys spending time with her family and their dog, going to the beach, cooking, and being outdoors.

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MOLLY O'BRIEN
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Fertility law attorney Molly O’Brien began working in the field of assisted reproduction technology (ART) in 2005, at an egg donation agency and a surrogacy agency where she became familiar with all aspects of in-vitro fertilization, egg donation and the financial aspects of surrogacy. Since becoming an attorney in 2011, Molly has drafted and negotiated surrogacy, egg donation, sperm donation embryo donation agreements for hundreds of her clients all over the world.