Ukraine is a leader in surrogacy
Surrogate motherhood is a big thing in Ukraine. I didn’t know about this thriving business until the war. Now I can’t stop thinking about it. In my previous post I wrote about the couple from California who went to great lengths to get their newborn daughter out of Kyiv while the surrogate mother who gave birth to the child stayed behind. The Los Angeles Times wrote a follow-up story, which made me think about the general issue of surrogate motherhood–both traditional and gestational. You can click HERE if you want to get a clear idea of the difference between the two.
Surrogate motherhood’s price tag
Like in the adoption industry, money–lots of it–changes hands in a surrogacy arrangement. According to some info on the web from the Fertility Center of Las Vegas, surrogacy costs in the U.S. range from110,000 to 170,000 dollars. Understandably (if you can understand the concept of renting another person’s uterus,) couples go searching for a better deal. Surrogacy services have been legal in Ukraine since 2002, and the cost is reportedly between 30,000 and 40,000 U.S. dollars “for the complete package.” It’s easy to see, with that price difference, why business is thriving. Couples from all over the world turn to Ukraine to fulfill their dreams of having a family.
Basements full of babies
But first there was Covid. And now there’s a full-blown war. So there are basement bomb shelters full of babies in Ukraine. Judging from the photos some newspapers are running with the current articles about babies stuck there because of the fighting, there are lots and lots of babies. From the look of things, with some babies holding up their heads and looking around, legs dangling to the nannies’ waists, these babies were born long before the first shell dropped–probably months ago while travel was restricted due to Covid. And as if things aren’t horrific enough, there’s been worry about another wave of Covid due to crowded conditions in shelters and from the massive crowds crammed together in the exodus. It’s an unthinkable situation.
The complications of surrogacy
Like adoption, surrogacy is fraught with complications. At its heart the ethics, I think, are questionable. If you want a bit of a lengthy read, there’s this Supreme Court brief from 2018 . Having been guided on my own journey as a birthmother by Concerned United Birthparents, it’s worth noting that much of what’s in the brief was guided by CUB’s position paper on surrogacy.
For the past two weeks I’ve seen the images on TV of Ukrainians fleeing their country. People in their beautiful winter coats, their thick hats and matching scarves, the furry boots. The children bundled and looking quite cozy despite the frigid temperatures. I have no way of knowing if there were surrogate mothers in the crowd, but I’m thinking maybe not. Maybe they’re like the surrogate mother in the California story. She has two other children and a husband who’s fighting in the war. Their house is old and the basement “is closed off because it needs repair.” It doesn’t sound like she’ll be going anywhere.
The economics of surrogacy
Ukraine is the poorest country in Europe. Surrogacy is big business because women need the money. Of course, their cut of the 30 to 40 grand is around 15,000 dollars, and the agency, of course, gets its piece. Economics and ethics get wound into a tangle with surrogacy, just like in adoption.
The surrogate child
Certainly, there will be no uniform point of view from the Ukrainian children who emerge from the basements into family life– just as there is no uniform point of view from adoptees about their own past trauma. But now, with the delays due to Covid and this terrible war, it is certain that harm is being done.