Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.
KIEV — Ukraine has become an international destination for couples with fertility issues, who are looking for women prepared to carry their babies for a fee. But there’s new scrutiny on surrogacy in Ukraine after a viral video showed rows of babies separated from their new parents, thanks to coronavirus travel restrictions.
When the video, posted by the head of surrogacy agency BioTexCom, went viral, embassies rushed to help unite the families.
“If I was one of those parents, I just would be beside myself,” says new mother Nadene Ghouri. Her son Gilbert was born three months ago via a surrogate she found through a different Ukrainian firm.
Ghouri and her husband made it in time for Gilbert’s birth. But when her husband had to travel back to the UK for work, Ghouri found herself trapped in Ukraine with a newborn for almost two months.
“I had to go to the supermarket and take this tiny baby with me, I had to take him everywhere with me, [with coronavirus around]. And that was really scary,” she told VICE news.
Ghouri was finally able to get Gilbert an emergency passport and catch one of the few repatriation flights home. But her experience is just one of many, showing how big commercial surrogacy is in Ukraine.
Unlike in other European countries, Ukraine’s legal system strongly favours the rights of the biological parents. On average it also costs less than it does in countries like the U.S.
But the images of stranded babies have led some Ukrainians to call for surrogacy to be better regulated and in some cases restricted in Ukraine.
“Those contracts being signed today by women wanting to participate are only focused on protecting business and protecting the client: the family,” said Nikolai Kuleba, Children's Ombudsman for Ukraine. Kuleba is calling for a ban on commercial surrogacy.
But new mothers like Ghouri feel a ban would be a mistake.
“Agencies that are unethical and that behave in unethical ways should be shut down and it should be better regulated” she said.
Ghouri told us her agency requires that surrogates have had their own children. And they insist their clients have undergone at least three rounds of IVF and have proof from a doctor that surrogacy is their final option.
“The issue is not with surrogacy itself,” she said.