Surrogacy During the War in Ukraine

Updated June 22, 2022

See Ukraine as International Surrogacy Destination for context on the surrogacy industry in Ukraine

The Russian war on Ukraine is having a devastating effect on millions of people and the country’s infrastructure and land. One lesser-known area of anguish is the impact on newborn surrogacy-born babies, surrogates and their families, and the babies’ parents from other countries. Ukraine is one of the largest hubs for international surrogacy in the world, second only to the United States. Minimal regulation and low cost make it a popular destination for foreign couples—though only available to married heterosexual couples—and economic hardship gives rise to more women willing to provide surrogacy services. This roundup of stories presents two analyses (The Atlantic and BioNews) regarding the invisibility of surrogates in media coverage and the unequal options and resources available to commissioning parents vs surrogates in Ukraine; it also includes a number of stories of harrowing and dangerous situations for infants, surrogates, and new or soon-to-be parents.

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Russia Moves to Bar Foreigners From Using its Surrogate Mothers

South China Morning Post | May 25, 2022

If passed, a newly-proposed Russian bill will bar foreigners from entering into surrogacy arrangements with Russian surrogates. This follows as Moscow’s relations with Western countries grow tense over the war in Ukraine.

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Wartime Labour: How Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine Has Exposed the Reality of the Surrogacy Industry

Anna Feigenbaum | Globe and Mail | May 20, 2022

The war in Ukraine not only illuminates the complexities inherent in international surrogacy, but also requires us to confront broader issues raised by this form of reproduction: how to prevent exploitation of women on the one hand while simultaneously ensuring women have bodily autonomy, and how we think about parenthood, genetic connection, and race and reproduction.

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Irish Parents of Babies Born Through Surrogacy Face €88-a-day Fee for ‘Nanny’ Care if They Can’t Travel to Ukraine

Laura Lynott | Independent.ie | February 13, 2022

14 babies were born to surrogates between May 2021 and present-day in Ukraine, which is currently under threat of invasion by Russian military forces. The Irish intended parents, advised against  traveling to Ukraine under the current circumstances, may need to pay 88 Euros a day for nannies to care for their children.

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Trafficking in Newborns: Police Expose Scheme Involving Sham Marriage, Surrogacy Services

Staff | Ukraine Form | August 17, 2021

The National Police Chief of Ukraine discusses an ongoing investigation of a criminal group that trafficked in newborns under the guise of a surrogacy agency. A clinic chief arranged for foreign men to enter sham marriages and surrogacy arrangements with Ukrainian women; the men were then allowed to transport the surrogate-born children to East Asia. The police released three newborns to social services during the investigation, but at least 13 others had already been sent out of Ukraine. The chief expects more groups to be exposed and believes legislation is “too soft,” calling for lawmaker involvement.

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US Couple Withdraws Legal Action Against ABC Over Claim They Abandoned Surrogate Child With a Disability

Australian Associated Press | The Guardian | July 27, 2021

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation covered a story about a couple’s surrogacy arrangement in a 2019 article about Ukraine’s commercial surrogacy industry. The couple sued ABC for allegedly portraying them as heartless parents who abandoned their surrogate-born, disabled child Bridget in Ukraine. This June, the couple withdrew their defamation case due to a lack of funds, but will still be asked to pay ABC’s legal costs.   

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Poor Legal Regulation Threatens Health of Ukraine’s Egg Donors

Kate Baklitskaya and Magdalena Chodownik | New Eastern Europe | March 15, 2021

This article highlights the need for stricter regulation of surrogacy and egg donation in Ukraine and Poland, underscored by additional risks presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Early travel bans left many newborns stranded in Ukraine, and the current economic decline may be motivating more women to sell their eggs for extra income. However, Ukraine and Poland have not developed legislation to protect egg donors’ safety and privacy.

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Lack of Regulation and COVID-19 Leaves Ukrainian Surrogate Mothers and Babies in Limbo

Kate Baklitskaya, Magalena Chodownik | New Easter Europe | December 24, 2020

This article is a comprehensive piece detailing how surrogacy practices in the already unregulated Ukraine have worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic. The difficulties in protecting the rights of both Ukrainian surrogates and children are highlighted, along with the illegal practice of moving surrogates across the Polish border to arrange childbirth inside the EU. Human rights activists in Ukraine and Poland are calling for regulation of the surrogacy industry in both countries.

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Mothers, Babies Stranded in Ukraine Surrogacy Industry

By Maria Varenikova | The New York Times | August 15, 2020

This article describes a disturbing situation in the Ukrainian surrogacy industry. Surrogates hired by foreign couples are sent by agencies to Northern Cyprus to circumvent restrictions for same-sex couples or for sex selection. Alarming reports reveal required C-sections and poor medical care, leading to one infant death. As surrogates raced to return home before the Ukrainian border closed and intended parents were unable to reach their children, newborns have been stranded and left with ambiguous legal parentage.

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The Stranded Babies of Kyiv and the Women who Give Birth for Money

By Oksana Grytsenko | The Guardian | June 15, 2020

This article exposes the scale and problematic nature of the surrogacy industry in Ukraine, with the COVID crisis exacerbating conditions even more. The ombudsman for children is now calling for a ban on commercial surrogacy in Ukraine for foreign couples. Without sufficient regulation and protections in place, surrogates in Ukraine are beginning to self-organize on social media, where they share advice and warnings about agencies, and expose increased mistreatment during the pandemic.

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