The dark side of surrogacy: 46 newborns left alone in Ukraine because of COVID-19 lockdown

In Ukraine, 46 babies born by paid surrogate mothers are waiting alone for their parents to come and get them. The  Kiev-based surrogacy clinic Biotexcom has crammed these babies in the “Hotel Venice” in the capital of the county.

Ukraine is among the numerous countries which closed its borders because of the COVID-19 crisis and clients of the clini who come from all around the world, including from European countries, are unable travel to Kiev to take their babies home. Biotexcom published a video on its website where they advised the parents to ask the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of their own country for a special diplomatic authorisation to come to Ukraine for their babies. They also called on the parents’ home nations to let them reunite with their children.

Feminist protests

The “Italian network against surrogacy,” which regroups different feminist and lesbians groups, has sent a letter to the Italian ambassador to Ukraine and to Italian foreign affairs minister Luigi Di Maio requesting to check on the newborn’s health status, recalling that surrogacy is forbidden in Italy and in Europe.

It is not the first time that Italian feminist and LGBT groups have declared themselves against surrogacy, with fifty Italian lesbian and activist women signing a document against surrogacy in 2016. It was one of the first document proposed by the LGBT communityto refuse the commercialisation of women’s body.”  The promoters said the document should not be considered as prohibitionist, but against the possibility of buying and selling human beings. The Council of Europe also rejected surrogacy in 2016.

Member of the European Parliament calls on the EU to stop supporting Ukraine

Marco Dreosto (Lega), an Italian Member of the European Parliament, called on the European Union to stop financing Ukraine and the political support towards the Eastern nation until it prohibits the practice of surrogacy, which “goes against human rights” as mentioned by the European Parliament Resolution in 2015. The European Parliament in a resolution approved on 17 December 2015, condemned “the practice of surrogacy’ and ‘considers that the practice of gestational surrogacy […] should be prohibited and treated as a matter of urgency in human rights instruments”.

The dark side of Ukraine’s surrogacy boom

Ukraine has become one of the most popular surrogacy centres in the world. The Ukrainian health ministry doesn’t keep official records of surrogacy. Nor are there any available statistics. In Ukraine, future parents are shown photos of women and their general information in a catalogue from which they can pick a surrogate or an egg donor. They can choose the sex of the baby and do not need to pass any controls. To hire a surrogate, the couple only needs to prove they are legally married and that they can’t have children, although one of them must have a genetic link to the child. In a country where the law is so lax, “it’s as if there were no regulation at all,” says one Ukrainian deputy.

Biotexcom, Ukraine’s most popular surrogacy company, reportedly offered to surrogate mothers $11,000 for one pregnancy and a $250 monthly stipend – a sum more than three times the average yearly salary in Ukraine of approximately $3,000. Ukraine has become an increasingly popular destination for foreign couples seeking affordable surrogacy services since they became legal in 2002. The average package costs around $30,000, compared with prices between $80,00 and $120,000 in the United States. According to Sergii Antonov quoted by Al-Jazeera, a Kiev-based lawyer specialising in the medical and reproductive field, between 2,000 and 2,500 children are born through surrogacy in Ukraine every year, with almost half through Biotexcom. Demand has surged since 2015 when Thailand, India and Nepal outlawed commercial surrogacy following reports of widespread exploitation of women.

 

Article published on 8th May and updated on 21st May