Ukraine’s in vitro fertilization clinics draw foreign couples desperate to have a baby. But the process can lead to paternal mistakes and citizenship questions, and experts want more regulation.
According to reports from Spain’s RTVE broadcaster, at least 20 Spanish families with newborns born in Ukraine via surrogate procedures have found themselves stuck in legal limbo. The Spanish consulate in Ukraine will not register the babies as Spanish citizens, invoking new European Union laws on personal data, which means that they are not allowed to enter Spain.
Ukraine is one of the world’s leading countries when it comes to maternal surrogacy, but the lack of legal regulation surrounding the process can increase the risk of crimes such as human trafficking.
That’s according to the Ukrainian prosecutor general, Yuri Lutsenko, who last month highlighted a case involving in vitro fertilization (IVF) at BioTexCom, a clinic in the capital, Kyiv. In 2011, an Italian couple signed a surrogacy contract with a Ukrainian surrogate mother. After the birth of a baby boy, the couple took the newborn back to Italy. Once home, however, they were not recognized as the child’s parents. A DNA test, which is mandatory in Italy, did not confirm that the man was the boy’s genetic father. In the end, the child was adopted by another family in Italy.
The owner of BioTexCom, Albert Tochilovsky, confirmed to DW that the genetic material of the man and the child did not match. “Either the embryos were swapped in the test tube or the catheters were swapped during the procedure,” said Tochilovsky, explaining that the risk of human error in such procedures can never be completely ruled out.
“The accusations are yet to be proven in court,” he said. Some 54,000 children were born in Ukraine with the help of IVF procedures over the past 18 years, according to Sukin, and in 2016 and 2017 there were 20,000 such cases in the country. “Of these, only 380 cases, so less than 2 percent, were as a result of surrogate motherhood,” he said.
According to attorney Elena Babich, however, these figures do not give a complete picture. “A surrogate pregnancy may well begin, but it does not necessarily always end in a baby being born,” she explained. “The statistics on surrogacy include these instances, but ultimately no child leaves Ukraine in these cases.”
There are almost 50 IVF clinics in Ukraine, according to the UARM’s Sukin. The medical procedures carried out in these clinics are not guided by law, however, but through administrative regulations. What’s more, the reproductive facilities are not monitored to make sure they adhere to those regulations.