The ban on surrogate pregnancies announced by the health minister on Monday will remain in place until the government drafts a law protecting Cambodian women giving birth to the children of other parents, an official said on Thursday.
Hok Khieu, director of the Health Ministry’s legislation department, said Health Minister Mam Bunheng introduced the ban to provide time for the government to draft proper regulations for the practice, which has developed quickly here following a crackdown by governments across Asia.
It remained unclear on Thursday how the ban would affect women who are already pregnant as a result of surrogacy arrangements and the would-be parents of the babies they are carrying.
For now, surrogacy is “completely banned” according to a new prakas on the management of blood, ovum, marrow and human cells that Mr. Bunheng approved on October 24 and disseminated to the health community this week.
Mr. Khieu said it was too early to say when the new law would be introduced or what specific services might be allowed and regulated.
“We are not sure yet,” he said. “The Justice Ministry will organize the drafting of the surrogacy law and figure out what advantages women can receive from surrogacy.”
Staff members at one surrogacy provider operating in Phnom Penh, who asked not to be identified out of concern the firm would be targeted by authorities, said it would abide by the prakas and had immediately suspended operations.
The company charges between $32,000 to $45,000 per child for its services and pays its surrogate mothers $10,000 in installments—more for twins.
Experts predicted some companies would shift their business to countries such Canada, Ukraine, Georgia and the U.S., though services there may be more expensive or discriminate against same- sex couples.
Mr. Khieu said clinics or hospitals providing services to surrogacy providers while the ban was in place would require special permission from the ministry.
“If there are clinics or hospi-tals who run those services without permission, we will look in-to their actions and decide what punishment they should get,” he said.
Justice Ministry spokesmen could not be reached.
(Additional reporting by Sonia Kohlbacher and Aisha Down)