A Thai surrogate mother trying to save the life of a six-month-old baby abandoned by his Australian parents after they found out he had Down syndrome says she will 'love him like her own child'.
Pattharamon Janbua, 21, was paid $11,700 by an Australian couple to give them a baby. When she gave birth to twins - a boy and a girl - baby boy Gammy was left behind because of his illness and congenital heart condition.
Now, Gammy is in urgent need of costly medical assistance, which Ms Pattharamon cannot afford.
"It was like this is the adults' fault and who is he to have to endure something like this even thought it's not his fault?" Ms Pattharamon told ABC.
"Why does he have to be abandoned while the other baby has it easy?
"I feel sorry for him. I don't know what to do. I chose to have him, not to hurt him. I love him. He was in my tummy for nine months, it's like my child.
"I treat him like my other children, never think you are not my child and I don't care for you, never."
According to Fairfax, the Australian couple told Ms Pattharamon to have an abortion after they found out one of the babies had Down syndrome four months into the pregnancy.
“They told me to have an abortion but I didn’t agree because I am afraid of sin,” said Ms Pattharamon, who is a practising Buddhist.
Despite feeling 'guilty and sad' every time she looks at Gammy, the 21-year-old Thai is willing to adjust to the situation.
“I think this is not a bad karma ... it’s good karma that make us be together,” she told the Sydney Morning Herald from her village in northern Thailand.
"I would like to tell Thai women – don't get into this business as a surrogate. Don't just think only for money...if something goes wrong no one will help us and the baby will be abandoned from society, then we have to take responsibility for that."
Ms Pattharamon says she only agreed to go ahead with the surrogacy proposal, organised through an agency, because her family was struggling to pay off debts and she was given an offer of $11,700 she couldn't refuse.
“I asked the agency, ‘Did I have to sleep with the man?’ I was an innocent young girl and I don’t know about this business," she said.
"The agent told me, ‘We are going to make a glass tube baby,’ but I didn’t understand.
“My husband agreed because we didn’t have money to pay our debt and I didn’t need to have sex with another man.”
Ms Pattharamon claims she is still owed nearly $2500 by the surrogacy agency and is now struggling to keep her new baby alive.
After the Thai Rath revealed the family's struggles, a Hope for Gammy campaign was established to help Ms Pattharamon pay for Gammy's desperately needed operations in Bangkok.
One Australian donor expressed outrage and disbelief that the couple could leave behind one of their babies, posting this message on the Thai Surrogacy Forum.
"... to leave a twin behind? Like a toy you bought from a shop you picked the one you wanted and ripped away the baby from its twin. Will they tell the healthy twin [she] has a brother that oh, we decided to leave behind and ignore and never supported, not even financially.”
Another user posted on the fundraising website: "I am shaking with rage. The biological parents need to be found and made accountable for this. How dare they abandon their child, they are the lowest of the low. I will be sharing this and donating to Gammy, please everyone do the same and get the word out."
The campaign is reportedly being supported by Australian embassy staff in Bangkok and has raised $121,675.
According to Fairfax, Ms Pattharamon was forced to lie to an official of the Australian embassy in Bangkok so that the Australian couple was allowed to leave the country with the baby.
In Thailand, surrogacy arrangements commissioned by unmarried couples or couples whose marriages are not recognised in Thailand are illegal.
Any arrangement involving the exchange of money to carry the unborn child is also illegal, Fairfax reports.
Additionally, foreigners must request permission from Thailand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs before permanently moving a child from its mother to another country or they will violate the country's human trafficking laws.
Sam Everingham, director of Families Through Surrogacy, says that Australian couples are now being asked for additional proof they haven't paid compensation to the surrogate mother for carrying their child.
“Many of them had taken on trust the advice of Thai doctors and agents to enter into surrogacy arrangements in Thailand on the understanding that this was a reliable pathway to parenthood,” he said, adding that this particular case demonstrated "the need for couples to be counselled before they go into any surrogacy, to ensure they know the risks they may be faced with that could lead to these situations".
"It’s a really sad story but not the first case we have seen in this area."
“There have been recent tragic cases of foreign parents not accepting disabled children born through surrogacy.”