Due to complex legal requirements, the mothers-to-be in one Kyiv surrogacy clinic must give birth in a bomb shelter-turned-maternity ward, despite the ongoing devastation in their country after Russia’s unprovoked invasion last month.
Several women at the BioTexCom clinic fled as the attacks worsened, but arrangements were made for them to return to the medical center closer to their due date, Denis Herman, a legal adviser for the surrogacy center, told Newsflash.
He advised the surrogates to not give birth in neighboring countries, since surrogacy is banned in many places proximal to Ukraine.
The tragic conundrum underscores a divide in the commercial surrogacy world: Critics of the practice, which is legal and inexpensive in Ukraine, dubbed it “rent-a-womb tourism” and classified it as human trafficking, claiming it exploits women.
If the women do give birth outside of their home country, there would be “lots of problems with the paperwork and establishing a parent-child relationship, because under the legislation of these countries, a legal mother is always a woman who gave birth to a child regardless of a genetic relationship,” Herman said.
As a result, the Kyiv clinic arranged for a bomb shelter to be turned into a makeshift maternity ward solely for those expecting, allowing them a relatively safe place to stay rather than flee while the war rages on.
Keeping the soon-to-be mothers in Ukraine not only eliminates legal obstacles, but also keeps them safe, Herman argued. Russian forces have reportedly broken cease-fire agreements designed to help Ukrainian civilians flee safely, resulting in hundreds of deaths.
“The roads are very risky, and the railway stations are still overcrowded,” Herman said. “So, there is a risk for the health of the surrogate mother and the unborn child.”
But surrogates are concerned the parents won’t be able to pick up the children they paid for — to the tune of $43,450 to $70,675. BioTexCom’s price range is still lower than that of the United States, which can soar to more than $100,000.
“Of course they are worried, and one of their concerns is when the parents will manage to come and pick up the baby after childbirth,” Herman said. “We are in constant contact with all of the surrogate mothers. We assist them in relocation if needed.”
One surrogate, he explained, asked to live in her apartment with the baby she birthed.
Normally, the agency would ask mothers to find a nanny and pay the expenses. Given the circumstances, they allowed the exception, and had to move her just a day before the house was destroyed in a Russian attack.
The “current situation is very hard,” he continued, saying the shelter was lucky to not be directly affected by Russian forces.
One surrogate baby, who was born in a temporary air-raid shelter, was collected by his biological parents, who fled the country through the snow in the middle of the night.
Another couple, who hail from Ireland, met their surrogate child in Ukraine on March 3. The parents, Gavin and Lesley-Anne Grimes, also said the surrogate mother was safe with the family at the time.
Eugenia and Sebastian Manoni’s baby, Alfonso, was born Feb. 26 in a makeshift bunker two days after Russia initiated attacks on Ukraine, providing challenges for the expectant parents to reach him.
The same day, 352 civilians died, including 14 children, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine.
Up until recently, everything for the Manoni couple was going as planned, having submitted genetic materials in May last year and received a due date. They traveled to Ukraine, in the company of other Argentine soon-to-be parents, when suddenly they were in the midst of war.
The Argentine consulate urged them to find shelter in the embassy in Kyiv, where they risked their lives to cross the city to get their baby.
“Although the entire operation had been perfectly orchestrated, there was not much time,” Eugenia told Argentinean news outlet Infobae. After they retrieved Alfonso, “Sebastian drove for 17 hours nonstop through fog, snow and terrifying cold.”
The Argentine Ministry of Foreign Affairs monitored the Manonis’ journey via satellite until they reached the Romanian border near Siret, when they were met by the ambassador and his wife in the crowd “like in a film.”
After escaping Ukraine with their child, the couple posted a picture of their newborn with the caption, “There is no war that love cannot overcome.”
But other expectant couples face worse conditions as the war escalates.
In a message to parents, Herman urged them to “stay calm” and keep in contact with the embassies, promising they’ll look after their children as long as they need.
The messages to ease parents’ worry comes as Ukraine claims to have shot down two Russian planes over Kyiv on Wednesday, as people hope that a third round of Ukraine-Russia negotiations will allow fleeing civilians to escape without violence.