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Father’s bid to adopt biological son born through surrogate mother, rejected by Singapore court

The State Court has rejected a Singaporean doctor’s bid on Tuesday (26 December) to adopt his biological son, who was born in the United States through a surrogate mother.

District Judge Shobha Nair said that the man was well aware that the medical procedures, such as in-vitro fertilisation, undertaken to have his own child would not have been possible in Singapore, saying that he cannot come to the Courts of the very same jurisdiction to have the acts condoned.

DJ Nair said that the man and his male partner of about 13 years chose to enable the birth of the child by having the in-vitro and surrogate procedures in the United States.

According to Singapore law in the country, assisted reproduction can only be provided to a married woman with the consent of her spouse.

However, even though the law here does not explicitly prohibit surrogacy, the Ministry of Health prohibits licensed healthcare institutions from providing assisted reproduction services to carry out surrogacy.

It is known that the child is about four years old and an American citizen. The boy was born with the man’s sperm and an egg from an anonymous donor, then carried to term by the surrogate mother.

The judge said, "Having so chosen, (the man) seeks to have the courts of Singapore allow the adoption of the child by pointing to the principle of the ‘welfare of the child’."

She then stressed that the legal bid to adopt the child "is in reality an attempt to obtain a desired result – that is, formalising a parent-child relationship in order to obtain certain benefits such as citizenship rights, by walking through the back door of the system when the front door was firmly shut", adding that the child’s welfare does not demand unlocking the back door.

DJ Nair said that, with or without the adoption order, the boy will continue to be provided for and that the man can execute a will to address matters of inheritance, and there is no evidence the boy will obtain Singapore citizenship by virtue of the adoption.

She said, "An adoption order in this particular case serves no other purpose than to ensure that the interests of the adult are not compromised. It does not further the interests of a four-year-old child… (who) will thrive anywhere if in the hands of loving people.", noting that the Adoption of Children Act did not envisage the specific situation of this case when it was enacted, but its tenor is to place children in safe and good homes if one or both biological parents are not able to provide for them.

She said that in this case, it could "certainly be said that the very idea of a biological father seeking to adopt a child after paying a surrogate mother a sum of US$200,000 to carry his child to term reflects the very thing the Adoption Act seeks to prevent – the use of money to encourage the movement of life from one hand to another".

DJ Nair said that it is not the place of the court to dictate to the man what a family unit ought to be, and the man is also not seeking to adopt the child so as to form a lawfully recognised family unit with his partner, adding that the man retains rights to the child as his biological father.

She said, "The child is no more vulnerable today however, than he was at his birth. An adoption order will not reduce that vulnerability nor promote his welfare."

Ministry of Social and Family Development had earlier advised the man and his partner that it was unlikely to recommend adoption of children by parties in a homosexual relationship.

The man was represented by lawyers Koh Tien Hua, Mr Ivan Cheong and Mr Shaun Ho, while the Attorney-General’s Chambers appeared for the Ministry of Social and Family Development.