Australian woman charged over surrogacy in Cambodia

A fertility nurse in Cambodia has been arrested for her involvement in the commercial surrogacy industry, following a recent crackdown by authorities.

Tammy Davis-Charles, an Australian national, was detained in relation to her work with Fertility Solutions PGD, a business she runs that connects foreign, mostly Australian, couples with Cambodian surrogates. She has been charged with offences relating to falsifying documents and human trafficking. Two Cambodian nurses have also been arrested for further questioning.

Davis-Charles’ detention follows last month’s ban on commercial surrogacy brought in by the Cambodian government (see BioNews 876). A number of recent scandals have prompted some countries to adopt measures against commercial surrogacy, with Thailand, Nepal and India all having banned the practice in the past couple of years (see BioNews 791, 817 and 866).

Fertility Solutions PGD was based in Thailand until a ban on commercial surrogacy was imposed two years ago, after which Davis-Charles relocated the business to Cambodia.

Sam Everingham, director of the Australian consultancy group Families Through Surrogacy, told ABC News that around 30 to 40 couples could be affected if Davis-Charles’ clinic was forced to close.

‘Many of us have been aware that there has been a lot of scrutiny of what she has been doing … I think they have just been waiting to gather enough evidence to be able to arrest her this week,’ he said.

The arrest throws into question the status of an estimated 70 surrogate children who have either been born or are being carried by Cambodian surrogates. The Cambodian government has stated that no parents will be prosecuted for using surrogates in the country, but there are reports that some parents have not been given clearance to take their children out of the country.

The Phnom Penh Post says that the Cambodian foreign ministry has already refused to grant some birth certificates to children suspected of being born via surrogacy. Moreover, there is some confusion over the legal status of the ban, which has so far been implemented by ministerial decree. Legislation has yet to be passed to outline the full scope of the government’s intentions.

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