Friday, March 18, 2011

News story about Bangkok baby farm

I think the news broke a couple of weeks ago about a surrogacy company located in Bangkok that was raided for some reason that isn't entirely clear. There were vague suggestions of human trafficking or some other possibly illegal activity surrounding it. It was not clear to me what the issue was that prompted the raid. Surrogacy is not uncommon in Thailand. We even looked into it ourselves when we were exploring all the possibilities in case we needed them. Our lawyer said it is kind of complicated but definitely not illegal. So what was raid all about?

Well, today I read a story titled "Underworld: upending an Asian baby farm". It repeated much of the previous news that left me wondering what is the issue. The story is basically that there is a company called "Baby 101" that offered surrogacy services online. They have a large house in Bangkok where they house a group of Vietnamese women who are surrogate mothers. According to the story they are there voluntarily, although there was some mention that a couple of them were mislead about what they would be doing when they came to Bangkok - a distinct lack of details on that angle. And the business owners were acting like their "keepers" by controlling their schedules and movements, something that was advertised on their site to ensure prospective customers that the surrogates were eating right and staying healthy during their pregnancy. So...sounds like not a lot of scary human trafficking or slavery type stuff going on, as in none.

The only thing that may have actually been an issue is that surrogacy for profit is illegal some places. Perhaps it is illegal in Thailand; maybe that is what our lawyer meant when he said it was a little complicated. If that's the case then you can see how if we were to help take care of the surrogate mother during the pregnancy we would have to carefully avoid having it look like she was doing it for profit. Since Baby 101 was openly running a surrogacy business for profit and if that is illegal in Thailand then yes, there would be an issue.

Thailand's health minister, Jurin Laksanawisit, made the statement that "By law, we’ll only charge the cross-border human trafficking agency and the hospitals if they did the artificial insemination illegally." Uh, why is he calling it a human trafficking agency? And the only potentially illegal activity is doing the artificial insemination "illegally". What exactly does that mean?

This followup story leaves just as many questions in my mind. And on top of it we have a writer giving a ridiculous title to the story "Underworld: upending an Asian baby farm". Underworld? Oh really. The company was operating out in the open with a website and contact information publicly available.