As Ukraine transforms into a desirable hub for international commercial surrogacy, concerns are emerging. This article – like others found here – touches on irregularities and poor quality of care at fertility clinics, and focuses on the 30 Spanish intended parents unable to obtain passports from the Spanish Consulate in Kiev for their children amidst fears of the trafficking of minors.
In a saga that started in 2014, one of the richest men in Japan has just been granted custody of children he commissioned from Thai gestational mothers. In its ruling, the central juvenile court “found the father had no history of bad behaviour and would provide for the children’s happiness.”
This case first came to light in the regulatory upheaval following the case of Baby Gammy in Thailand, and resulted in the country’s eventual ban on international commercial surrogacy. It continues to raise questions as, according to Sam Everingham, a director of the Australia-based consultancy Families Through Surrogacy, an example of “an unacceptable abuse of the limited pool of gestational surrogates globally” and, more broadly, the ethics of a practice that does not protect the rights of the women and children involved.
Foreign couples have been coming to this corner of Europe in droves since 2015, when surrogacy hotspots in Asia began closing their industries one-by-one, amid reports of exploitation. Barred from India, Nepal and Thailand, they turned to Ukraine, one of the few places left where surrogacy can still be arranged at a fraction of what it costs in the US.
This article covers the “rise” of Ukraine as a destination for intended parents hoping to form families via surrogacy. It follows Ana, who became a gestational mother at 21 years and, at 24 years, is carrying another pregnancy for Japanese intended parents she will never meet.
It also provides a short overview of the current surrogacy law in Ukraine, the main tenets of which are as follows:
Surrogacy is available to heterosexual, married couples able to prove they cannot carry a baby themselves for medical reasons.
At least one parent must have a genetic link to the baby.
The intended parents are on the Ukrainian birth certificate; the gestational mother has no legal right to claim custody of the child.
In the mid-1990s, the international community pronounced prenatal sex selection via abortion an “act of violence against women” and “unethical.” At the same time, new developments in reproductive technology in the United States led to a method of sex selection before conception; its US inventor marketed the practice as “family balancing” and defended it with the rhetoric of freedom of choice. In Gender before Birth, Rajani Bhatia takes on the double standard of how similar practices in the West and non-West are divergently named and framed.
Bhatia’s extensive fieldwork includes interviews with clinicians, scientists, biomedical service providers, and feminist activists, and her resulting analysis extends both feminist theory on reproduction and feminist science and technology studies. She argues that we are at the beginning of a changing transnational terrain that presents new challenges to theorized inequality in reproduction, demonstrating how the technosciences often get embroiled in colonial gender and racial politics.
GIRE, a Mexico-based organization that has studied, documented, published, and advocated on international recently released a documentary on the practice in 2017. “Deseos” or “Longing” follows Mirna, a divorced gestational mother with three of her own and shines a critical light on the lack of regulation around surrogacy in Mexico.
Visit GIRE’s website and read the organization’s latest report on surrogacy in Mexico. In it, GIRE offers a comprehensive overview of the current status of surrogacy, the scope of the debate around the practice, legal frameworks, cases, and recommendations. The last includes, for example:
Legislation that defines surrogacy as a contract between gestational mothers and intended parents.
Decriminalization of all the parties involved, including any criminalization based on nationality, sexual orientation, marital status, and age.
Quality and confidential health and legal care for gestational mothers.
Guarantees that costs related to pregnancy, birth, and postpartum be covered by intended parents (regardless of birth outcomes).
Contract revisions be contingent on the involvement of a competent notary/judge and consent of all parties.
Notifications of relevant state and federal authorities to avoid problems related to registration, legal parentage, and citizenship while contracts are valid or after birth.