BANGKOK -- Thailand's military-picked legislature passed a law that criminalized commercial surrogacy and prohibited foreigners from seeking surrogacy services in the kingdom after a string of scandals last year, a lawmaker said Friday.
The law, which prohibits the act of hiring women commercially to carry fetuses to term, aims to stop Thailand from being a surrogacy hub for foreign couples, or from becoming "the wombs of the world," National Legislative Assembly member Wanlop Tangkananurak told The Associated Press on Friday.
Thailand was rocked by several surrogacy scandals last year. One involved an Australian couple who left behind a twin baby who had Down's syndrome. The other case involved a Japanese man who fathered at least 16 babies via Thai surrogates.
Previously, the Southeast Asia nation was one of the few countries in Asia where commercial surrogacy was not specifically banned by law. The medical council of Thailand has a regulation stating that doctors risk losing their license if they perform surrogacy for pay. Thailand became a go-to destination for couples from Australia, Hong Kong and Taiwan and a low-cost alternative to the United States.
"Surrogacy business leaves too much long-term trouble for Thailand, so we are banning foreign couples from seeking surrogacy in our country to avoid being a hub and to prevent what we saw last year," Wanlop said.
The parliament voted 160 to 2 to pass the law Thursday night.
Under the new law, a Thai couple is allowed to seek a surrogate to carry the fetus only if they are able to prove that they and their relatives are infertile. A couple with one Thai spouse seeking surrogacy must be married for at least three years.
It also says that anyone involved in commercial surrogacy will face a maximum jail term of 10 years and a maximum fine of 200,000 baht ($6,100).