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Singaporeans pay big bucks to rent a womb

Bangkok a popular place for desperate couples who want to start a family

Published on Aug 10, 2014 6:40 AM

Singaporeans desperate to start a family have gone to countries such as Malaysia, India, the United States and Thailand and paid six-figure sums for a stranger to carry their baby.

Those in the know say people from Singapore have been having babies through surrogate mothers for at least the past decade. And in recent years, Bangkok has become a popular place for Singaporeans to rent a womb.

One man who advertises surrogacy services is Mr Michael Ho, who runs Singapore-based Asian Surrogates. He told The Sunday Times: "Singaporeans like to go to Bangkok as it's nearby and costs about the same as Malaysia. The Bangkok facilities are world-class and doctors are very experienced."

But he fears that may change in the wake of the Baby Gammy controversy, where a baby boy with Down syndrome was born to a young Thai surrogate and allegedly abandoned by his Australian parents.

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Background story

Business hit by controversy

"I expect my business to take a total hit as Thai doctors are now afraid to do surrogacy procedures, as they risk losing their medical licences. I have to explore sending new clients to India or close down."

MR MICHAEL HO, who runs Singapore-based Asian Surrogates


A surrogacy agency in the United States says most of its Singapore clients are gay men who are partners and want to be parents.

One of the men would supply the sperm, and they would use a donor egg and surrogate mother to have their baby, said the British Surrogacy Centre of California (BSC).

It told The Sunday Times that it has seen between five and eight couples a year from Singapore over the past few years and most were gay men.

The first babies to a couple from Singapore were born in 2006.

The twins, a boy and a girl, were born to a Singaporean man and his British partner, who both worked in banking.

The centre's chief executive, Mr Barrie Drewitt-Barlow, said gay partners who want children usually head for countries that accord same-sex couples parental responsibility, such as the US and Britain. The birth certificate would list both men as the child's parents.

As one partner is the biological father of the child, there is no need for an adoption process, he said. "You don't have to adopt your own child."

He said his clients from Singapore have been well-heeled professionals in their late 30s and 40s, many working in finance, medicine or the media industries, who can afford to pay more than US$100,000 (S$125,000) to have a child through surrogacy.

The BSC was the only one among those contacted by The Sunday Times that said most of its clients were gay men.

Surrogacy agencies and fertility clinics in other countries said their Singaporean clients were mainly heterosexual couples unable to have children of their own.

For children born by Thai surrogates in Bangkok, the Singaporean couple adopts the child in Thailand in order to bring their baby back to Singapore, said Asian Surrogates' Mr Michael Ho.

This is because the Thai birth certificate would list the surrogate as the child's mother, with the Singaporean man who supplied the sperm named as the child's father.

He said: "Our Singaporean couples have had no problems bringing their babies back home."

Theresa Tan