Thai surrogate mother expresses concern
Thai surrogate mother, Pattaramon Janbua told media on Tuesday that she had hardly any contact with the surrogacy agency, before the story of baby Gammy made headlines around the world.PT0M0S 620 349
One child, two sharply different versions. A West Australian couple who bought gifts for a baby girl and a baby boy they hoped to take home as their children, but were told by Thai authorities one of the twins would die within a day? Or a heartless couple who rejected the twin with Down syndrome and a life-threatening condition?
Both interpretations of Gammy's story were possible on Tuesday as the first contact from parents David and Wendy Farnell contradicted the version of abandonment presented by the twins' natural mother, Pattharamon Janbua.
Mixed version of events: The baby at the centre of the surrogacy controversy. Photo: Reuters
The warring versions played out as Fairfax Media confirmed court documents showing a series of 1997 child molestation charges against Mr Farnell, who was given a three-year jail term for sexually molesting two girls under the age of 10. He had pleaded not guilty to six charges of indecently dealing with a child under 13.
West Australian child protection services were called in by police to investigate the ''suitability'' of Mr Farnell following the disclosure of the molestation offences.
On Tuesday night there were reports child protection officers had visited the home but were not able to speak to the couple.
The revelations fuelled what has become a global story about Gammy's apparent abandonment.
Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop announced the government would be examining Gammy's case, which was labelled ''tragic'' by Prime Minister Tony Abbott. It is understood an interdepartmental committee, which first met on Monday, would also look at broader issues relating to international surrogacy arrangements.
''We're looking at it from every angle, in terms of foreign affairs, immigration and the Attorney-General's office,'' she said.
A leading surrogacy lawyer, Stephen Page, called for criminal checks in Australia before intended parents engage a surrogate overseas.
Australian parents who have a child born to a surrogate in a foreign country are subject to a check by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to determine the child's eligibility for citizenship, but not whether the parents have a criminal history.
In contrast, Australian parents adopting a child from overseas or domestically must undergo strict background checks. Australian couples undergoing IVF also undergo criminal checks in Victoria.
Meanwhile the condition of Gammy has dramatically improved since he was rushed to a hospital near Pattaya last Saturday suffering from a lung infection and what was believed to be a hole in the heart.
A spokesman for the hospital said on Tuesday doctors assessing Gammy reported he may not need heart surgery and will probably be able to go home in a couple of days.
Gammy's surrogate mother said on Tuesday she wanted the girl back ''because she is my baby. She was in my womb''.
She said she was shocked by the report the father had a conviction in Australia. ''But I will leave it up to the law whether I get my daughter back … whatever happens is fate,'' she said.
On Tuesday a friend of Mr and Mrs Farnell issued a statement to Fairfax Media's Bunbury Mail to give the couple's side of the story for the first time.
David Farnell is a well-known Bunbury electrician. He has three grown-up children and is believed to have married his second wife, Wendy Li, in China in 2004.
''This has been absolutely devastating for them, they are on the edge,'' the family friend said.
''Legally they have been told not to say anything but they wouldn't be able to anyway.''
She said reports made by the Thai surrogate mother that the couple had requested an abortion when they found out Gammy had Down syndrome, and that they had subsequently abandoned the baby boy, were completely false.
The birth of the twins had been planned to take place at a major international hospital in Thailand.
But Ms Pattharamon had gone to another smaller hospital, which made the surrogacy agreement void, according to the couple. This meant the Farnells had no legal rights to the babies, even though they were the biological parents.
The babies were born two months premature due to complications. She said the couple was not told that Gammy had Down syndrome, but they were told he had a congenital heart condition.
''Gammy was very sick when he was born and the biological parents were told he would not survive and he had a day, at best, to live and to say goodbye,'' the friend said.
Ms Pattharamon then said she wanted to keep Gammy and give him a proper Thai funeral.
The couple became embroiled in a legal battle to bring home the female twin. The 21-year-old surrogate mother finally agreed to hand the baby girl over, but the couple were terrified she could change her mind.
''All this happened when Thailand was in a military lockdown and very difficult to get around,'' the friend said.
''The biological parents were heartbroken that they couldn't take their boy with them and never wanted to give him up, but to stay would risk them losing their daughter also.
''They prayed for Gammy to survive but were told by doctors that he was too sick, not because of the Down syndrome but because of his heart and lung conditions and infection.''
Mr and Mrs Farnell spent two months in Thailand and extended their visas but due to the unrest said they had no option but to leave without Gammy.
A fundraising campaign has raised almost $220,000 for Gammy's medical costs and long-term care.
The fallout from the case threatens an estimated 200 Australians who seek surrogacy arrangements in Thailand every year.