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Thailand, once a top choice for would-be parents around the world who were seeking a surrogate, has narrowed the choices for people looking to hire a woman to carry a fetus in her womb.

It had been one of the handful of Asian countries where commercial surrogacy was not specifically banned. And the cost of having a baby by surrogate, often with an implanted embryo from biological parents, was less than $50,000 in Thailand, compared to about $150,000 in the United States.

However, recent scandals in Thailand involving foreign clients caused a public outcry. In one case, an Australian couple abandoned an infant born to a surrogate last year after they found out the baby had Down syndrome. In another, the son of a Japanese billionaire hired at least a dozen surrogate mothers in what appeared to be an eccentric effort to replicate himself.

The law that took effect on July 30 prohibits commercial surrogacy serving foreign clients, with violations punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to 200,000 baht ($6,200). Only Thai... see more