Australian couple abandons surrogate baby in India

Melbourne: An Australian couple abandoned one of their biological child born to a surrogate mother in India because of the baby's gender, despite Australian consular officials pleading with them to take home the twins.

Australian Family Court Chief Justice Diana Bryant said that she was told by the Australian High Commission officials in New Delhi that the couple's decision to leave their surrogate baby in India was based on its gender.

The twins were a brother and sister. The High Commission delayed giving the parents a visa to try and convince them to take both children home, she told Australian Broadcasting Corp. in an interview broadcast today.

The couple already had one child and decided to go for surrogacy from India through an agency. The surrogate mother gave birth to twins and the couple were said to have made the decision to keep one of the surrogate twins based on its gender.

According to ABC and Foreign Correspondent joint probe, the latest case from 2012 has surfaced where the couple only wanted one of the babies. Bryant said the case showed there was needs to be a national inquiry into surrogacy.

She said consular officials told her there was pressure from Australia to provide a visa to allow them to return home with one baby, as the parents did not want both babies. "They told me the surrogate mother had given birth to twins and the Australian couple only wanted one of the children," Bryant said.

"I don't know whether it was a boy or a girl. They already had one sex and they didn't want the other child. "These women were extremely concerned about what was happening. They were doing the best they could, they told me, to persuade the parents to take both children, to negotiate with them." she said.

"In the meantime they (consular officials) were getting pressure from Australia to grant the visa," she said. "They told me in the end they couldn't persuade the couple to take both children and they had to grant the visa to bring one child back.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she has no information from her department about about the case. "I have seen the allegations and of course I would be concerned if a life of a child was put at risk in any way," Bishop said.

Earlier, a surrogate baby boy Gammy with Down Syndrome was rejected in Thailand by his Australian parents who returned home with Gammy's healthy twin sister.

Bryant stressed that the consular staff were not at fault, saying they had to operate in a legal vacuum where the laws are far from straightforward or clear. "I asked them what happened to the other child. They said someone in the end had come forward - and they said they were known to the family - and took the child, but they expressed to me their great concern that in fact money had changed hands," Bryant said.

She said if it was true that a sum of money changed hands so another family would take the abandoned child, that could be tantamount to human trafficking and a criminal offence. "I think it is appalling. It's a breach of all sorts of human rights conventions and it's a criminal offence in many places if that is so," she said.

Foreign Minister Bishop said, "Presumably the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade could go back through its records but I'm not able to access the former activities and advice of the previous government. "Perhaps (former) prime minister (Julia) Gillard, perhaps former foreign minister (Kevin) Rudd may know something about it but if the ABC has sources and information and evidence then they could provide it to the Attorney-General's office to look into the matter."

A spokeswoman for Rudd, however, said that representatives of his office from the time say they are not familiar with the case. "Consular matters are best responded to by the Department who holds such records," the spokeswoman said.

Most of the Australian states ban commercial surrogacy but some states allow Australians to pay surrogate mothers to have their babies overseas.

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