The West Australian parents accused of abandoning their Down syndrome baby to a surrogate mother never asked her to abort the child and were “heartbroken” to have to leave him in Thailand, a family friend says.
The 21-year-old Thai surrogate mother, Pattaramon Chanbua, says the couple left baby Gammy and returned to South Bunbury in Western Australia with his twin sister. But the Bunbury Mail has quoted a family friend, who says the allegations are false.
“This has been absolutely devastating for them. They are on the edge,” the friend said.
She spoke to the newspaper to give the parents a voice.
The birth of the twins had been planned to take place at a major international hospital in Thailand, the friend said.
But Ms Pattaramon went to a smaller hospital, which allegedly made the surrogacy agreement void and gave the biological parents no legal rights to their children.
The babies were born two months premature, but the couple was not told that Gammy had Down syndrome, only that he had a congenital heart condition, the friend said.
“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,” she said.
The couple then became embroiled in a legal battle to bring home Gammy's twin sister.
“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,” the friend said.
Her comments are in contrast with previous media reports that indicated the parents never knew about Gammy - a claim the Thai birth mother has rejected.
It also emerged today that Gammy's WA father was sentenced to three years jail in 1997 for sexually molesting two girls under the age of 13.
Just months later, while still imprisoned, he was charged again - this time with six counts of indecent dealings with a child under the age of 13.
Those offences were said to have occurred over a 10-month period in the mid-1990s.
He was found guilty a second time and received an 18-month jail term.
Ms Pattharamon, who claims she was promised $16,000 to give birth to the twins, said she was shocked at revelations and now wants the girl back.
She initially said she forgave the parents for leaving Gammy with her. But after hearing of the father's denial, she told Fairfax Media she was very upset and was considering suing the WA couple.
Gammy's plight has triggered international reaction and reignited the debate about surrogacy. The case became more complicated tonight with Thai authorities threatening to take legal action against Ms Pattharamon.
The Thai Ministry of Public Health says it is co-ordinating with other agencies in a crackdown against medical facilities and agencies linked to the commercial surrogacy the ministry calls "illegal".
Premier Colin Barnett described it as a "very sad and distressing situation" but said there was little the State Government could do.
"Because the two babies were born in Thailand, that is beyond WA jurisdiction," he said. "Surrogacy can take place in WA, but under very strict conditions and there can be no payment of monies if surrogacy occurs here."
Mr Barnett said it would be "very difficult, if not impossible" to regulate from Australia what happened in a foreign country.
In WA, couples can enter into a commercial surrogacy agreement overseas, unlike in NSW, Queensland and the ACT.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he would look into giving the surrogate family some support.
"I guess it illustrates some of the pitfalls involved in this particular business," he said.
"It's a very, very sad story and I hate to think that a child could be abandoned like that."
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said Ms Pattharamon was a "saint" for caring for Gammy despite already having two young children of her own.
Mora Kelly, founder of the Children First Foundation, which brings sick children from developing countries to Australia for medical treatment, said she had discussed with Hands Across the Water the possibility of bringing Gammy to the Australian city of Melbourne for heart surgery.
“I believe that this child should be able to access our health care system here in Australia,” Ms Kelly told ABC.
“This child, in essence ... should be an Australian citizen.”
But Hands Across the Water founder and chairman Peter Baines said Pattaramon and her family's wishes would need to be considered in any decision to fly Gammy to Australia.
“Certainly our position is that there is no need to bring Gammy out to Australia,” Mr Baines said.
"There's a high level of medical care available in Thailand and there's nothing to my knowledge that indicates he's suffering from something that can't be treated in Thailand.”