Calls for Australian inquiry into surrogacy after new claims

Gammy, a baby born with Down's Syndrome, is fed by his surrogate mother Pattaramon Janbua at a hospital in Chonburi province on Aug 3, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Gammy, a baby born with Down's Syndrome, is fed by his surrogate mother Pattaramon Janbua at a hospital in Chonburi province on Aug 3, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY (AFP) - Australia faced calls Thursday for a national inquiry into commercial surrogacy after a senior judge revealed a couple allegedly rejected a child born in India, following a similar case in Thailand.

Family Court Chief Justice Diana Bryant said Australian consular officials in New Delhi had to find a home for a twin born through surrogacy in India after the couple said they only wanted one child.

"They told me the surrogate mother had given birth to twins and the Australian couple only wanted one of the children," Bryant told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

She added that the case was raised by consular officials in 2012.

"These women were extremely concerned about what was happening. They were doing the best they could, they told me, to persuade the parents to take both children, to negotiate with them."

Bryant told a family conference in Sydney on Wednesday that a person who claimed to be a friend of the couple apparently took the unwanted child.

"(The officials) told me, however, that they doubted this was true and it was their belief that money had changed hands," The Australian newspaper reported Bryant as saying.

"That is trafficking in children." It is not clear where the child now is.

The claims follow international debate over the case of baby Gammy, who was born with Down's syndrome to a Thai surrogate for an Australian couple in December. The couple took the boy's healthy twin sister back to Australia but left Gammy in Thailand.

Federal Circuit Court Chief Judge John Pascoe called for a inquiry, saying he thought "international commercial surrogacy is the new frontline in human trafficking".

"We have enough anecdotal evidence to believe that people are commissioning children willy-nilly without any proper protections for the children or for the surrogate mothers," the judge said at the conference.

Attorney-General George Brandis said he was considering recommendations raised in a Family Law Council report, released in December 2013, which included a call for a inquiry by the Australian Law Reform Commission.

Bryant backed Pascoe's call for a government inquiry.

"We have laws in some of the states and territories which make it illegal to enter into commercial surrogacy overseas, and yet parents do that knowing it is in breach of the law," she told the ABC.

"At the moment those laws are not being enforced. I think that is a very bad message. It puts the courts in a difficult position. It is a bad message to give to society. If we have laws they should be enforcing them. If we don't have laws, let them be repealed."