|An official even estimates that as many as 1,000 surrogate babies will be born before the travel restrictions will be lifted. / Photo by Olena Yakobchuk via Shutterstock|
The Ukraine travel ban due to the Covid-19 pandemic has prevented the parents of 100 surrogate-born babies from entering the country, reports The New York Times. An official even estimates that as many as 1,000 surrogate babies will be born before the travel restrictions will be lifted.
Her body, my baby: Ukraine as a global surrogacy hub
Ukraine has one of the most supportive surrogacy laws worldwide. The practice is well-regulated and surrogacy contracts are executed under the law enacted at the Federal level. The Ukrainian law provides that from the moment of conception, the child belongs solely to the intended parents. This is not the case with other countries that allow surrogacy. In other countries, they typically give parental rights to the surrogate until a court process transfers the right to the intended parents.
The country also has a long history of helping childless couples start families, making it a popular destination for international adoption, according to the surrogacy platform The Surrogacy Guide. Surrogate mothers in Ukraine are treated ethically. She lives in her own home and has weekly visits from a social worker.
The booming surrogate motherhood business in the country, however, has been affected by the pandemic. Agencies that arrange surrogate births in the country are now the ones taking care of the babies as their biological parents from the US and other countries cannot retrieve them.
Authorities said that aside from at least 100 babies already stranded, as much as 1,000 will be born before the country lifts its travel ban for foreigners.
Babies are well-cared for
Kyiv-based largest provider of surrogacy services BioTexCom’s director Albert Tochilovsky told the New York Times that they would do all that they can to unite these babies with their parents. He admitted releasing a video showing dozens of surrogate-born babies in cribs to call the public’s attention to the situation. These babies are lying in cribs, crying, sleeping, or smiling at the nurses as seen in snapshots. They are well-cared for while they wait for their parents. However, Tochilovsky said that they are in a “difficult situation” right now. He shared how hundreds of parents are calling him and he has been “exhausted” because of the problem.
|Ukraine has one of the most supportive surrogacy laws worldwide. / Photo by Alena Ozerova via Shutterstock|
No statistics on Ukraine surrogacy
The daily added that Ukraine does not tally the number of surrogacy births in the country but Tochilovsky estimates that there could be several amid the pandemic. In their company alone, they are awaiting around 500 births. 14 other companies are providing the same surrogacy service in the country.
Ukraine allows foreigners to tap various reproductive health services, such as arranging for surrogate mothers to bear babies and buying eggs. This kind of business has thrived due to poverty.
Ukraine poverty rate
In data provided by statistics and data analysis site Knoema, Ukraine’s poverty rate in 1996 stood at 5.4% and declined to 0.6% in 2003. In 2006, the poverty headcount ratio at $1.90 a day was at 0.1%, 0.0% in 2008, 0.1% in 2015, and 0.1% in 2016.
BioTexCom’s website also reads, “The cheapest surrogacy in Europe is in Ukraine, the poorest country in Europe.” Surrogate mothers in the country usually earn $15,000. The service is also available to heterosexual married couples in Ukraine if they can establish that the woman cannot bear babies herself.
The industry has been largely dependent on travel and the careful sequence of bearing a child, but the pandemic has disrupted it. For the time being, the babies in Ukraine cribs are considered citizens of the country, although the Ukrainian law provides that these surrogate-born newborns share the citizenship of their biological parents. However, it is necessary that these parents present themselves to foreign embassies to confirm such a status.
BioTexCom also admits that they do not recruit surrogates from eastern Ukraine considered as a war zone. This is because the clients’ babies could be killed or harmed together with the mother, such as by stray artillery and mines. To stop the spread of the coronavirus, the country has restricted entry of all foreigners, except if the embassy intervenes to allow travel. BioTexCom’s director Tochilovsky went on to say that caregivers and doctors now live at a hotel in Kyiv that is owned by the company. They are the ones caring for the babies, feeding them formula, showing them to their biological parent through video calls, and taking them for walks while observing the quarantine protocols.
As of May 16, a total of 60 babies were already at the hotel and the biological parents of 16 of them were there as well. These parents either arrived before the travel restrictions or found their way in afterward.
Swedish mother Maria Tangros, who managed to reach Kyiv via private plane, shares that she understands that many parents are sitting in their homes with the same worries and anxiety as they had. Many of them are probably “panicking” about how to get to Ukraine. The company said that the surrogate babies’ parents are now in Spain, the US, Italy, the UK, Romania, France, China, Portugal, Mexico, and Austria.
The human cost of surrogacy
Ukraine Parliament’s human rights ombudsman Lyudmila Denisova shares that the stranded babies in the country highlight the pressing need of Ukraine to bar foreign nationals from hiring women from Ukraine as surrogate mothers. Another human rights official, Nikolai Kuleba, likewise demanded the end of the practice.
After Thailand, Nepal, and India banned surrogacy in their countries, Ukraine experienced a rise in demand. Ukrainian women, however, report exploitation. Alina, a surrogate mother in Ukraine, said in an interview with world news provider Al Jazeera that “it’s hard to find a well-paid job in Ukraine.” Since she wanted to provide her son with a good education, she became a surrogate mother with the consent of her husband.
Alina narrates how she shared a bed with another surrogate mother in a small apartment when she was 32 weeks into her pregnancy. “We were all very stressed. Most of the women come from small villages and are in hopeless situations,” she added.
Surrogacy by country
Growing Families International, which provides surrogacy advice and support to parents, surrogates, and families internationally, shares that the approximate cost of IVF in Ukraine is $8,500. For surrogacy, $26,000 or more, and for a local egg donor, an additional $5,000 or more. This is less expensive compared to Greece, wherein the cost of IVF is $20,100 and $44,000 for surrogacy. In Mexico, the cost of surrogacy is $80,000, including egg donors.
The travel restrictions that prevented the surrogate babies in Ukraine from meeting their biological parents indicate the scale of the baby business in the country.