That Down syndrome baby: Christmas comes early for the Australian press

Christmas has come early for the Australian press. The case of Gammy, the child born with Down syndrome to a surrogate Thai mother on behalf of an Australian couple, is everything an editor would desire during the dull news days of August.

This gift keeps on giving.

A very bad thing has happened. The press knows it. We readers know it.

Yet no one appears to have explained why this is wrong. Is this another example of viewing the world from an Anglo-American mindset?  Or are there universal values and ethical considerations that do not need to be explained?

The first day story that prompts these musings on the nature of truth was that an Australian couple, David and Wendy Farnell, had paid a 21 year old Thai woman, Pattharamon Chanbua, to be a surrogate mother. Chanbua gave birth to a boy and a girl -- the biological children of the Farnell’s -- but after learning the boy had Down syndrome, the Farnells were said to have taken the girl home to Australia and abandoned the boy.

The next wave of stories focused on the reactions to the Farnell’s abandoning the boy as well as reports that they had asked Chanbua to abort the boy when tests conducted in the fourth month of pregnancy indicated he had Down syndrome. Chanbua told reporters she declined to abort the child because such an action would violate her Buddhist religious beliefs.

The story took a different twist when reporters unearthed David Farnell’s criminal past. He had been jailed for sexually abusing little girls. This strand of the story has taken on a life of its own with Farnell’s victims weighing in on his fitness to be a father.

The Farnell’s response to the charges they had abandoned the baby were slow in coming, with the initial comments coming from their friends. When they did speak they claimed they had been told the baby boy would not live. And in a further plot twist, the Baby Gammy case seemed to morph into a Thai version of the Baby M case.

Farnell told Australia’s Channel Nine news:

We did not abandon our son. She said that if we tried to take our little boy, she's going to get the police and she's going to try and take our little girl and she's going to keep both of the babies.

Comments made to the Associated Press by the birth mother appear to support the father’s claims.

I did not allow Gammy to go back with them -- that's the truth. It is because they would have taken Gammy back and put him in an institute.

And the story keeps on growing. 

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