100 Babies Stranded in Ukraine After Surrogate Births
Travel bans have prevented the babies’ parents from entering the country. One official says as many as 1,000 babies will be born before restrictions are lifted.
MOSCOW — The babies lie in cribs, sleeping, crying or smiling at nurses, swaddled in clean linens and apparently well cared for, but separated from their parents as an unintended consequence of coronavirus travel bans.
Dozens of babies born into Ukraine’s booming surrogate motherhood business have become marooned in the country as their biological parents in the United States and other countries cannot travel to retrieve them after birth. For now, the agencies that arranged the surrogate births care for the babies.
Authorities say that at least 100 babies are stranded already and that as many as 1,000 may be born before Ukraine’s travel ban for foreigners is lifted.
“We will do all we can to unite the children with their parents,” Albert Tochilovsky, director of BioTexCom, the largest provider of surrogacy services in Ukraine, said in a telephone interview. He said he released a video showing dozens of stranded babies in cribs to call attention to the problem.
“I’m in a difficult situation,” he said. “Hundreds of parents are calling me. I’m exhausted.”
Ukraine does not tally statistics on surrogacy, but it may lead the world in the number of surrogate births for foreign biological parents, Mr. Tochilovsky said. His company alone is awaiting about 500 births. Fourteen companies offer the service in Ukraine.
Ukraine is an outlier among nations, though not alone, in allowing foreigners to tap a broad range of reproductive health services, including buying eggs and arranging for surrogate mothers to bear children for a fee. The business has thrived largely because of poverty.
The babies’ parents are now in the United States, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, China, France, Romania, Austria, Mexico and Portugal, the company said.
Lyudmila Denisova, a human rights ombudsman for Ukraine’s Parliament, said the stranded babies underscore a pressing need for the country to bar foreigners from hiring Ukrainian women as surrogate mothers.
A human rights official in the presidential administration, Nikolai Kuleba, has also demanded an end to the practice. “Ukraine is just turning into an online store for little ones,” he said.
In an indication of the scale of the baby business in the country, Ms. Denisova said at a news conference in Kyiv that expectant surrogate mothers may give birth to as many as 1,000 babies before travel restrictions are lifted.
Mr. Tochilovsky said that number would be reached only if travel restrictions, in place now for two months, extend for another seven months and all of the surrogate mothers come to term before the travel bans are lifted.
Olha Pysana, an official with one company, World Center of Baby, said that surrogacy is safe and provides an irreplaceable service to infertile couples.
“We believe people are searching for a scandal out of nowhere,” Ms. Pysana said. “All the children are genetically linked to the parents. Unfortunately, because of Covid, the parents are just not here in Ukraine.”
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