$2.3 Million Worth of Babies: Ukraine Has Become a “Mecca” for Surrogacy

Ukrainian women become living “incubators” for foreigners due to poverty and unemployment, and our country is becoming one of the world centres of surrogacy.

This topic is again being heard due to the scandal with “living goods” stuck in Ukraine due to quarantine. Almost half a hundred babies born to surrogate mothers in one of the capital’s clinics are being kept at the “Venice” hotel on the outskirts of Kiev.

The picture, as can be seen from the video published by the clinic itself, is imposing. In rows of cots lie newborns whose parents, according to the clinic, are abroad (in America, Italy, Spain, France, China, Great Britain, Germany, Israel, Romania, Mexico, and elsewhere). Nannies are taking care of them.

For each child the clinic earned about $50,000, and $15,000-20,000 of this is the standard surrogate mother’s fee.

After the scandal nobody is allowed in “Venice”, a security guard told our journalist that the hotel is quarantined, and they do not comment on anything. The hotel itself with babies looks like a prison – the fence is wrapped in barbed wire.

In a similar situation, according to Ombudsman Lyudmila Denisova, there were about 100 children in different similar centres all over Ukraine, and if quarantine is extended – they will become manyfold more.

The quarantine introduced in Ukraine in connection with the coronavirus epidemic was an occasion to discuss a problem that under normal conditions didn’t receive much attention. Ukraine is being turned into an “incubator” for foreigners who do not have the opportunity to have children in the usual way.

A large bright room in which dozens of newborns cry with high-pitched voices. Caring smiling nannies are cotton around them. They are surrounded by caring, smiling nannies. In appearance, all of this resembles a room in a maternity hospital, but in reality the video was recorded in the Kiev “Venice” hotel. 46 newborns are “products” that got stuck on the way from the “manufacturer” to the customers.

The video that caused the scandal was launched by representatives of the BioTexCom Clinic, which provides surrogacy services for wealthy foreigners.

Childless citizens of other states turn to a firm where they are picked up by a suitable Ukrainian surrogate mother. The company conducts the whole process up to childbirth, after which customers come to Ukraine and take the child, making a final financial calculation.

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The scheme stalled due to quarantine, when entry into Ukraine was closed. As a result, infants who could not be sent for their intended purpose started to accumulate in the company.

The owner of clinic Albert Tochilovsky said to the “Strana.ua” publication that the video was a message for parents: “We launched this story ourselves and caused a wave of indignation, because parents need a special permit to enter Ukraine, which is issued by the Foreign Ministry, and it issues a permit if the Foreign Ministry of another country sends a request. And when it is just parents who write to them, they say that they do not talk to individuals”.

The publication of the video caused indignation among the opponents of surrogacy.

The “rodyna.org.ua” website, which works under the patronage of the Commission for the Pastoral of Families at the Conference of Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church in Ukraine, posted a video of the babies with the following comment: “Live goods cry in the capital. Kiev, Venice hotel. 46 surrogate children are waiting for their surrogate parents. Absolutely ordinary, although somewhat tired, reports hotel administrator Marina. The purpose of the video is to assure customers that the product is stored in the warehouse (sorry, in the hotel) in good condition. The name of the clinic (biotexcom.com) indicates that human life is a technology delivered on a conveyor belt.”

On May 13th, Lyudmila Denisov, Commissioner for Human Rights, commented on the situation. On her Facebook page, she wrote: “This video confirms that the situation with the provision of surrogacy is a mass and systemic phenomenon, and surrogacy technologies are advertised and presented as a ‘high-quality product’.

This indicates that the state is not taking all appropriate measures to protect the rights of children and treat them with dignity, and Ukraine is becoming a donor country for children born to foreigners whose fate cannot be controlled…

Surrogacy in Ukraine is a problem that needs a comprehensive and immediate response. The provision of such services to foreign citizens could lead primarily to violations of the rights of children and to a situation in which Ukraine is unable to protect its citizens.

I note that at present it is necessary to amend the legislation of Ukraine and introduce requirements for the possibility of using reproductive technologies by the method of surrogacy for Ukrainian citizens only.”

According to materials published by the “BioTexCom” clinic, newborns are sent from Ukraine with happy parents literally all over the world.

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This clinic is not a monopolist in the market of such services. According to Ombudswoman Lyudmila Denisova, now about 100 children born to Ukrainian women for foreigners are stuck in Ukraine due to quarantine. And this number is constantly increasing.

According to international organisations, the demand for surrogate mothers from Ukraine has increased about 10 times in just a few years. The reason is the very liberal Ukrainian legislation, which gives priority to the rights of clients in matters of surrogacy and there are no restrictions on these services for foreigners.

At the same time, in other countries, the screws are “twisted” on this issue. In 2015, India imposed a ban on surrogacy for foreigners. Parliamentarians in that country had concluded that it was a matter of exploiting Indian women for profit. According to some reports, the annual turnover of the surrogacy industry in India was $138 million per year.

A year before India, Thailand had similarly turned on a “red light” for foreign customers of newborns.

And then well-off ladies and gentlemen turned their eyes to Ukraine. In addition to liberal legislation, they are also attracted by the relatively low prices and a large number of women willing to provide themselves as an incubator.

The prices in the surrogacy market vary greatly depending on the range of services provided and the level of medical support.

“In recent years, there have also been more women ready for such a role. They get $10,000-15,000, some buy a house in the village, some pays off debts. Most of those who agree to carry other people’s children are women who are unemployed or receive little, single mothers,” said an employee of one of the private clinics in Lvov to “Strana”.

The clinics themselves receive between $30,000-70,000 from customers. In BioTexCom, the average price per infant is about $50,000. Thus, in the “Venice” hotel “live goods” with a total cost of $2.3 million have accumulated. No wonder the owner of the office is extremely concerned about what is happening.

After the scandal, the “Venice” hotel moved to almost a state of siege. Journalists are not allowed close to it. Although the clinic insists – there are no claims from the authorities, everything that happens is within the framework of the law. Indeed, it appears that the newborns in the “Venice” hotel will soon be sent to their destination.

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“Today I was at a working meeting of representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the State Migration Service, and we have developed an effective mechanism for solving this problem. Since this issue is of a humanitarian nature, parents can contact the Commissioner of the Verkhovna Rada for Human Rights so that I can help them resolve this issue. I, in turn, appeal to the Foreign Ministry and offer to resolve this issue, and they issue such a document,” said the Commissioner for Human Rights Lyudmila Denisova. “According to the forecast, which was made in the Ministry of Healthcare of Ukraine, if the quarantine is extended, such children may no longer be a hundred, but almost a thousand. Therefore, it is necessary to develop a mechanism for parents to come after their children and take them to where they will be raised in the family.”

Curiously, the BioTexCom clinic has already been caught up in a loud scandal. Customers from Italy, after conducting a DNA test of the infant, stated that the child was not theirs. Criminal proceedings were initiated against the management of the company, but as a result, Mr. Tochilovsky got away with a fine instead of a prison term.

What happens next is unknown. In order to stop the current practice, changes in legislation are needed, but it seems that Ukraine has not yet had a hard time the way India has, which means that the commercial pipeline for the production of babies for export to Ukraine will continue its work.

“Ads for the search for surrogate mothers are everywhere. On the Internet, in public transport, directly on poles/posts. Such operations are done both in Kiev and in the regions. Just officially they give birth to 1,000 children annually in Ukraine for foreigners, and underground – even more. No statistics are kept, fictitious documents are being made, fictitious marriages. Criminal schemes have flourished – often couples try to sell other people’s children and are taken for organs. The main customers are in China, Israel, and the USA,” said Ostap Kis, an expert in reproductive medicine, to “Strana”.

Aleksandra Kharchenko, Yuliya Korzun, Andrey Sidorchik

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