An increasing number of Singaporeans are seeking the services of surrogate mothers from Thailand and Malaysia, spending huge amounts of money to have babies, The Straits Times (ST) reports.
The paper said after the cost of in-vitro fertilisation treatment, the cost of getting a baby through a surrogate mother could reach S$100,000 (RM255,800), even before the baby is delivered.
But the recent Baby Gammy controversy, where an Australian couple were accused of abandoning a baby with Down’s Syndrome to his surrogate mother in Thailand, could impact the commercial surrogacy which is popular among Singaporeans.
The issue has brought out calls on the Thai government to regulate the industry.
“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,” Michael Ho, a former property agent who now runs Asian Surrogates, a Singapore-based company, told ST.
Ho, who said he now planned to send new clients to India “or close down” his business, said he charges clients S$49,000 (RM125,000), which includes the surrogate mother’s fees.
He told ST that his clients were mostly Malaysians and Indonesians, while many surrogate mothers are poor Malaysian and Filipinos.
He said more couples from Singapore, where surrogacy “is not widely accepted” although there is no clear legal hurdle, are now using his service.
Singapore’s health ministry guidelines do not allow surrogacy for assisted reproduction, where a woman’s eggs are removed and fertilised with her husband’s sperm, but placed into a stranger’s womb due to the woman’s medical problems.
In Malaysia, reproductive treatment has become a popular part of medical tourism, and fertility clinics have mushroomed amid higher demands from couples who find it hard to conceive naturally.
Hospitals offering the services are governed by the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC). But a Health Ministry’s plan to draft an Assisted Reproductive Technique Services Act, to address issues such as surrogacy, sperm and egg banking, and sperm donation, have reached a deadlock since 2009.
Surrogacy is still illegal in Malaysia, with ethical and religious concerns coming into play. Islam and Catholicism prohibit a third party in a pregnancy, although the rules are more relaxed in Buddhism and Hinduism.
A local fertility expert had warned that legalising surrogacy could be fraught with problem if not done carefully.
“We could become a rent-a-womb country. In some countries, the only way out for poor women is to be prostitutes or surrogates. We do not want Malaysia to be a haven for that. There are places in Eastern Europe and India known to commercialise surrogacy.
“In some countries, paying money to carry someone’s baby is common and it has become a part of medical tourism,” Dr Prashant Nadkarni of KL Fertility and Gynaecology Centre told the International Medical Travel Journal in 2011.
That has probably led to the Indian government introducing a new rule on foreigners seeking surrogacy in the country, where they should get a special medical visa for the purpose.
The visa also requires an applicant get a letter stating their government’s consent to surrogacy.
ST said this has affected business from Singaporeans, quoting a Delhi-based fertility centre.
The centre also said out of US$40,000 spent on the whole process, US$9,000 is paid to the surrogate mother.
But like many other businesses, clients feel that middle men are the scourge in the high cost of getting a baby by renting a womb.
Instead, they find it easier to pay directly to the surrogate mothers.
“Surrogacy is the only way we can have our own blood-related children,” said a couple, who are considering an offer they got through an online website for a woman to carry their baby. – August 10, 2014.
Singapore couples eager for bloodlines spend big on surrogates