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World Seeks To Bypass Surrogacy Laws By Renting Wombs In War-Torn Ukraine

Ukraine surrogate
Image CreditFDRLST/Canva

The desire to commission children has either blinded people to the tragedies of Ukraine’s womb rental service or numbed them to it.


Ukraine may be embroiled in what could be the beginning of another world war, but its babymaking and womb-rental business is booming.

More than 2,000 babies are born to Ukrainian surrogates each year. Despite the country’s ongoing violent conflict with Russia, that number doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

“We’ve been trying to make the dream of having our own child come true for 10 years. It won’t be the bombs or the war that will stop us,” one Italian couple seeking a surrogate in Ukraine told The Guardian.

In Italy, much like most of Western Europe, surrogacy is illegal, and the Italian parliament is on its way to criminalizing commercial surrogacy arrangements abroad. Where surrogacy bans and restrictions fail, however, shady and exploitative Ukrainian fertility firms prevail.

Ukraine is a popular destination for people looking to buy eggs or rent a womb because of its lax assisted reproductive technology (ART) laws and cheap labor. Customers mostly come from countries in Western Europe, South America, and Asia where ART and commercial surrogacy are heavily restricted, if not banned. But even American couples who have access to one of the most unregulated fertility industries in the world seek the help of Eastern European companies and women to grow and deliver their babies.

Conducting reproductive business overseas, however, is no easy task. As Politico highlighted in a report this week, one California woman and her husband paid $10,000 to ship two of their embryos to Kyiv in an effort to avoid skyrocketing surrogacy costs in the U.S. The popular Ukrainian fertility firm BioTexCom confirmed it received the shipment but quickly told 45-year-old Tanya that transferring the embryos to a rented womb failed.

When Tanya’s husband, who happened to be on business in Ukraine at the time, stopped in to ask questions, BioTexCom reportedly “immediately thanked him for donating their embryos to another couple.” That was in 2017. To this day, even after filing complaints with Interpol, Tanya and her husband still do not know what happened to their unborn babies.

“The unfortunate part is there’s so little that we could do about it, you know?” Tanya recalled in her interview with Politico. “That was a very traumatic situation. … We’re five years down the road from the situation and I think I only came to terms with it about a year ago.”

BioTexCom, which is reported to control “one fourth of the global surrogacy market and 70 percent of the market in Ukraine” and has more than 10,000 eggs in storage, denies Tanya’s story, but her account is not the only tragedy born of this international babymaking business.

Profiting Off Of Poverty And Pain

Ukraine’s most popular surrogacy company is plagued with allegations of exploitation, medical neglect, and misconduct that have led to the switching of babies at birth, deaths of unborn babies, surrogate mothers, life-threatening early deliveries, and heartbreak for all of the parties involved in the transaction.

Ukrainian agencies like BioTexCom prey on young, cash-strapped women who can’t even afford to keep their children to birth someone else’s in exchange for money. Some of these women, drawn into the industry by the myriad of advertisements plastered on public transportation, don’t understand why they have to give the children up and ask their agencies if they can keep the baby they are carrying.

“It’s a terrible thing when a grown person does not belong to herself,” one Ukrainian surrogate told to the parents of the child she was carrying.

One unforeseen disaster of BioTexCom’s sale of outsourced reproduction was the creation of “stateless” babies like Bridget. She was born to a Ukrainian surrogate in the early 2010s due to complications but was never picked up by her American parents. Despite paying big bucks to commission the child, the U.S. citizens didn’t want to bring home a disabled daughter, which left her stranded at a children’s home and unavailable for adoption until the Ukrainian government chose to grant her citizenship years later.

Even European and American parents who intended to pick up their children faced obstacles due to Covid-19. During the height of the world’s pandemic panic, surrogates in Kyiv and its surrounding area birthed, nursed, and cared for the marooned children they carried for months because the biological parents could not travel to Ukraine.

Right when the Covid calamity began to die down, tensions between Russia and Ukraine flared up and made international travel into the area dangerous and difficult. Hundreds more babies were stranded and designated to the care of “nannies” as bombs destroyed the land around them.

Albert Tochilovsky, BioTexCom’s owner, often deflects criticism about situations like these by denying allegations or blaming other fertility firms for his company’s mistakes. Yet, over and over, investigations conclude that Ukraine’s surrogacy industry, no matter how popular, is not physically, legally, or morally sustainable.

Even Tochilovsky admits that his top priority is not ethics or even the prevailing narrative that he’s helping families have children; it’s “to prohibit the intervention of law enforcement agencies into our work.”

Despite BioTexCom’s scandalous track record, medical tourists flock to its headquarters with hopes of fulfilling their desires to start a family.

The increasingly infertile world’s yearning to commission children has either blinded them to the tragedies that lie at the heart of Ukraine’s womb rental service or numbed them to it.

There’s a reason so many of BioTexCom’s customers hail from countries where commercial surrogacy is banned. The practice is demonstrably harmful to the unborn baby, the surrogate mother, and the intended parents. Countries that allow it and customers who pay for it to continue, especially in such a lawless way, are only exacerbating those problems.

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