Ukrainian Surrogates Navigate Autonomy, Surrogacy Laws, and Harrowing Circumstances.
We are now heading into the several weeks of the gut wrenching war in Ukraine. As the world looks on, people everywhere are continuing to rally and show their unwavering support for the brave Ukrainians who are fighting to survive. While every citizen in the now war torn country is facing terrifying circumstances, for Ukrainian surrogate mothers the decision to fight or flee has an extra level of complication.
Their right to have autonomy and do what’s necessary to protect themselves and their families may be at odds with the concerns of the biological parents of the baby they are carrying.
The Ukrainian Surrogacy Industry
Ukraine is one of the world’s biggest surrogacy hubs for people struggling with infertility. There are restrictions, mainly that couples who seek out surrogacy services in the Ukraine must prove that they are in a heterosexual marriage and have a medical need to use a surrogate.
Even so, because Ukraine is one of only a few countries that accepts international infertility patients into local surrogacy contracts, hopeful parents often turn to the country to help make their dreams of building a family come true. Affordability is also a major pull towards Ukrainian surrogacy services.
Using a surrogate in Ukraine can help reduce infertility costs for many hopeful parents. The average cost of surrogacy in Ukraine is usually about $30,000.
This is a drastically low price tag compared to the often six figure cost in the US and EU. Due to this, using a Ukrainian surrogate may be the only way for some parents to afford to conceive their own biological child. While the exact numbers of live births from Ukraine surrogates is unknown, some experts estimate it could be over 2,500 or more per year, while others estimate the figure is closer to 1,000-1,500. Either way, it is clear that there is a booming surrogacy industry in Ukraine.
War, Autonomy, and Safety
Many Ukrainian surrogates are now faced with having to choose whether to protect their own lives and families, stay to help support and fight for their country, or flee to give birth to their surrogate baby somewhere else. The biological parents of the baby want to protect their unborn child and keep their surrogate safe. But many also wish to give her freedom to act how she sees fit to protect her own family and country.
The emotional struggle between surrogate autonomy and the concerns parents have for their babies safety has put both surrogates and parents in impossible positions. To be a surrogate you must already have had at least one child. The concern and love that biological parents have for their baby is the same that surrogates feel as they desperately try to keep their own little ones safe and at their side.
Some Ukrainian Surrogacy Agencies contractually require their surrogates to move closer to a hospital once their due date approaches. Some feel that since surrogates previously agreed to move to prioritize the baby, they should continue to do so in this circumstance. But leaving isn’t as easy as some may think, and for many it is not the right choice for their circumstance.
Surrogates may flee the country, but if they do they could be faced with differing parental laws in Western Europe. These laws could mean the surrogate might have to become the legal guardian of the child they carry once it is born. This could pose serious issues if biological parents continue to be unable to reach their baby.
If the surrogate goes to Poland, Hungary, Romania, or other surrounding countries parents will find legal restrictions even more limiting, meaning if their baby is born in one of these countries they may be unable to even gain parental rights without a lengthy legal process.
Relocating also presents huge hurdles for surrogates that don’t have many financial resources available to them. With the high influx of refugees fleeing the war, finding accommodation suitable for a pregnant woman is not always easy. No matter what choice is made these extreme circumstances create challenges on all fronts.
If a surrogate stays in a region close to the fighting, she could be putting herself, the baby, and her own family at risk. However, if she flees, she may have to leave her family behind, or may expose them and herself to even more danger by being out in the open.
If she manages to escape, she faces difficulties accessing important resources, and could face further hardship if the baby is born in a country with stricter surrogacy laws.
Surrogate Babies Born at War
At the time of this writing it is estimated that at least 21 babies recently born from surrogates are being cared for in an underground bomb shelter in Kiev. This shelter is just for one surrogacy company, and there may be more surrogate babies born through other companies that are being kept safe in other locations.
The newborns in Kiev are safe and cared for by a dedicated team of nurses, but their worried parents remain unable to take them home. War has created intense travel restrictions in and out of Ukraine. This means the baby’s biological parents cannot enter the country to bring their children home.
With the popularity of surrogacy in Ukraine, it is clear that many more babies will be born in the next coming months, and it appears that their parents may be left powerless when trying to reach them.
Legal complications pose even more unknowns. Since Ukrainian law states that parents must be physically present in the country before their child’s nationality can be confirmed, surrogate babies currently have no legal citizenship.
That means that when trying to decide where to bring them, what protections they are granted, and how to get them back to their parents, there are no legal protections to guide the right course of action when trying to shelter these newborns.
Surrogacy companies, surrogates, and the dedicated nurses and workers at their side are fighting to keep themselves and their surrogate babies as safe as possible. Many are trying to escape to safer regions, but in the face of so much adversity their options are often limited.
How You Can Help
In these harrowing times, there is no right answer or best course of action. Each family must work with each other and their surrogacy agency together to determine the right plan for their unique situation. There is action we can take to help surrogates and their families. For surrogates who are currently in the Ukraine and those who are trying to escape, we can donate to family and child focused relief funds.
We’ve laid out a few organizations below that Fertility Finders believes will help make a difference for Ukrainian women and children. We recognize that this is a very sensitive and complex topic, and understand that some parents of surrogate babies in Ukraine are also experiencing unbelievable hardship and pain.
For some parents seeking out counseling services may be extremely beneficial. Fertility Finders works with counselors specializing in fertility and surrogacy and can help you determine what services may best fit your unique situation. If you are interested in any mental health support we encourage you to contact our compassionate team so we can connect you to the right resources.
Charities That Help Ukrainian Children, Families, and Women
For those interested in donating toward the Ukrainian relief efforts, we recommend some of the organizations below to help families, women, and children.
Unicef – Help geared toward children and families caught in the Ukrainian conflict. They provide emergency health and nutrition services as well as shelter.
Voices of Children – Providing help to children affected by the atrocities of war, this organization aims to give them both psychological and physiological support. They offer psychologists and therapy programs.
Save the Children – Utilizes their resources to deliver actionable lifesaving aid to children in need.
CARE – Prioritizing women, girls, families, and the elderly, CARE seeks to provide swift aid to these groups through support services, food and water, hygiene kits and direct cash assistance.