An Australian couple have allegedly abandoned their newborn baby son, born to a poverty-stricken surrogate, after they discovered he had Down syndrome. The unnamed couple used Thai surrogate Pattharamon Janbua, 21, after they were unable to conceive naturally. Ms Pattharamon became pregnant with twins and when tests at the four-month mark showed the baby boy, named Gammy, had Down syndrome the couple reportedly told her to have an abortion. Ms Pattharamon, a Buddhist, refused. When the twins were born in Bangkok the couple took Gammy’s sister home – who was born healthy – but refused to take the boy according to media reports.

The couple reportedly paid $11,700 for Ms Pattharamon to be a surrogate and the surrogacy agency promised her another $1637 when it was discovered she was carrying twins. Ms Pattharamon never met the couple. She is now desperately trying to raise money to care for Gammy, who has a congenital heart condition and is critically ill. “I would like to tell other 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,” she said.


Critically ill … Gammy’s surrogate mother tried to raise funds to pay for an operation to treat his congenital heart condition. The family has set up a Hope for Gammy campaign to help fund the baby’s operations. The campaign is reportedly being supported by Australian embassy staff in Bangkok. It is believed to have raised more than $200,000 so far. Furious Australians who have rushed to donate to the campaign, labelling the Australian couple’s actions appalling. “I have a surrogate daughter and appalled that this could be allowed to happen. Selfish, selfish people – surrogacy should be regulated onshore in Australia, to stop this sort of thing from occurring,” said one parent.


Left behind … Gammy will never get to meet his twin sister, who was taken to Australia after they were born. Thai health officials have now moved to crack down on the surrogacy business, declaring this week that the only legal surrogacy cases were between a married couple unable to conceive who use a blood relative to bear their child. Surrogacy contracts with unmarried or same-sex couples, and paid surrogacy were declared illegal. They also declared that foreign couples taking a child from its mother to another country required permission from Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Without permission they would be deemed to be violating human trafficking laws. 

Australian Christian commentator Bill Muehlenberg said in a blog “An indication of a society that has lost its way is how poorly it treats its most vulnerable members. And they don’t come much more vulnerable than helpless babies. When babies are treated with disdain and contempt, then you know a culture is in a terminal condition. And when babies become mere commodities – simply objects of monetary exchange – then the descent of barbarism is complete. Yet we find this happening all over the Western world. In the name of helping women and infertile couples, we have managed to turn one of the most sacred and special things – childbirth – into one of the most profane and ugly things.”


“With the new assisted reproductive technologies (ART) we have in so many ways cheapened life, depersonalised parenthood, and trivialised family. It is even worse when these things become a means of making money. To turn the joys of creating life into a mere for-profit endeavour is the height of a sordid and sick society. Sadly there are plenty more such horror stories out there. While genuine infertile couples are being kicked about by such dodgy dealings, it is the poor baby so conceived that really deserves our concern and attention. They are treated as mere footballs in the selfish adult games which they are oblivious to. It is time to end all baby buying” Muehlenberg concluded.


Source: Compiled by APN from media reports and other sources

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Divorce and family breakdowns are costing the national economy more than $14 billion a year in government assistance payments and court costs, a recent media investigation has found. That figure has blown out by $2 billion in the last two years alone, with each Australian taxpayer now paying about $1100 a year to support families in crisis. The financial sting is one of the reasons why Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews has confirmed he will overhaul early intervention strategies in a bid to strengthen Australian families. Mr Andrews has said he will soon establish an expert panel on early intervention, which will be made up of a mix of practitioners and academics.


It will examine strategies to lower the divorce rate and better identify and assist vulnerable children and young people, including looking at whether more psychologists need to be deployed in kindergartens and preschools across the country. “The reality is that most programs are programs that try to ameliorate the impact of marriage and family relationship breakdowns,” he said. “There is not enough that goes to early intervention.” An analysis of information from the federal Attorney-General’s Department, and the Departments of Human Services and Social Services, shows that this financial year alone the government will spend $12.5 billion on support payments to single parents.


Another $1.5 billion will be spent on the administration of the child support system, while the cost to taxpayers from family disputes in Australian courts is $202 million. Almost 50,000 people get divorced each year in Australia, and while the divorce rate declined between 2002 and 2008, it is now on the rise again. Over the last two years, the cost of divorce to the national economy has increased by more than $2 billion, or 17 per cent. Mr Andrews said understanding what divorce was costing the nation was important. “Whatever the figure comes out as, it is still a significant amount of money worth knowing about” he said.


Mr Andrews said the overhaul of early intervention programs will also examine whether current schemes, like the Communities for Children program, are operating as effectively as possible. He will also demand government service providers be more outcome focused. Academic and relationship expert from the University of Queensland Matthew Bambling said he was not surprised the cost of divorce to the national economy had now toppled $14 billion. “It is one of the key sources of poverty among working people,” Dr Bambling said. “People are required to rely in greater part on the social welfare system and there is the potential for court costs to be borne by the government-funded system,” he said.


“If we are not thinking about this as a society, we are likely to pay the price with a lot more mopping up at the other end.” Relationships Australia’s Grant Pearson welcomed the government’s relationship counselling voucher system and its push to overhaul early intervention strategies. He said more resources for programs which deliver early intervention, like relationship counselling, would be beneficial both to couples and the nation’s budget bottom line. “For every program we have, we have waiting lists,” Mr Pearson said. “There is often a wait to get into our main line services, and it can be up to two months – which is quite a while if a client is under pressure in the eleventh hour of their relationship,” he said.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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The Victorian Education Department recently announced a new rule banning students from gathering for bible studies or prayer groups in the States public schools. The change was announced after the Minister for Education signed a Ministerial Directive MD141-Special Religious Instruction in Public Schools in May this year. Not only were students banned from discussing Christianity together, they were also not allowed to advertise church or religious events or give their friends a Christian music DVD or bible. Lunchtime student prayer groups and fellowship groups were also no longer permitted.


After strong representations from concerned Christians and organisations the Education Minister, Martin Dixon intervened and stated that other religious activities are allowed at Victorian state schools at lunchtimes. He said that he had issued the Ministerial Direction 141 about Special Religious Instruction (SRI) in relation only to SRI and it did not apply to any other religious activities at school. Mr Dixon stated that the School Policy Advisory Guide on SRI that was subsequently issued by the Department of Education to explain the operation of MD141 had gone too far in talking about other religious activities. He stated that he had ‘instructed the Department to fix it’ and remove those references. That has now been done.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports and Saltshakers

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