CANBERRA — An Australian couple rejected their biological child born to an Indian surrogate mother because of the baby's gender, but took home its twin sibling, a judge said.
News of the case that dates back to 2012 follows a recent furor over an Australian couple that left behind a disabled twin born to a Thai surrogate mother that prompted a ban on commercial surrogacy in Thailand.
Australian Family Court Chief Justice Diana Bryant told Australian Broadcasting Corp. in an interview broadcast on Thursday that she was told by Australian embassy officials in New Delhi that the couple's decision to leave their biological baby in India was based on its gender. The twins were a brother and sister.
"I don't know whether it was the boy or the girl, but they already had a child of one sex and they wanted the other sex and they didn't want the child," she told the media outlet.
The Australian High Commission in New Delhi delayed giving the Australian parents a visa for the wanted child while they tried to persuade them to take both children, Bryant said.
The unwanted baby was accepted by another family in India who might have bought it, Bryant said.
Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday. Bryant was not available to comment on Thursday.
Federal Circuit Court Chief Judge John Pascoe has called for a national inquiry into international commercial surrogacy.
"I find it almost unbelievable that Australians would be choosing a child on the basis of sex and it's particularly tragic when you think there are wonderful people out there who would love to have a child of any sex," Pascoe told the media outlet.
"I think international surrogacy is the new front line in human trafficking and we have enough anecdotal evidence to believe that people are commissioning children willy-nilly without any proper protections for the children or for the surrogate mothers," he added.
Pascoe said the Family Court and Federal Court had been left to deal with a process that did not have appropriate legislation in place.
Most Australian states outlaw commercial surrogacy but some allow Australians to pay surrogate mothers to have their babies overseas.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the government had few details about the case.
He ruled out the federal government taking control of surrogacy away from state governments.
"It's always distressing to think that a child has been brought into the world and abandoned. It's terribly distressing to think that this might have been the case," Abbott told reporters.
"But surrogacy is a matter for the state governments and while I can understand the interest in this right around the country ... I certainly don't intend to change the ordinary constitutional arrangements in this area," he said.