Surrogate Children: Stuck In Ukraine
Ukraine is a hotspot for surrogacy. As the country in Europe with the most surrogacy-friendly policies, it is estimated that somewhere around 500 women were pregnant with surrogate children at the start of the Invasion of Ukraine. This has created a catch-22 for the parents and the surrogates. How do you protect your family by leaving the country when a child in your care must stay in Ukraine to obtain legal citizenship, and how do you get your child from a country whose non-essential government services have shut down?
One of the most important things to know is that these newborns cannot leave Ukraine. Their citizenship and parentage status is in flux. Ukrainian surrogacy laws dictate that in order to affirm the citizenship and parentage of the child, the biological parents must be present and the contracts must be in order. Without going through the legal process in the country where the child was born, the baby would be considered “kidnapped” by their biological parents. However, in the chaos of the last month and a half, papers have been understandably misplaced or destroyed, and traveling to Ukraine is difficult at best. Even then, many civil services are unavailable at short notice. It’s become apparent that even if parents are able to make it to Ukraine to meet their children, the process of getting them home will be long, and most likely endanger their lives.
Many newborns are also residing in underground nursery shelters with caretakers that are starting to feel the strain. In cities with active shelling, caretakers are sticking around for the sole purpose of caring for these children. News outlets have reported quotes from these caretakers that express their desire to leave the area, but will not despite the personal risk because there is no one else to care for the babies. Without their bravery, many international children would be without resources or support.
Surrogates are giving birth regardless of external conditions as well. With limited resources for newborns, many surrogates are choosing to care for the children themselves. This creates a more emotional issue: crossing boundaries. Surrogates are becoming attached to the newborns, and when giving them up claim that it has ruined their journey because it feels like giving up a child. Being pregnant or having the newborn also impedes their ability to seek asylum during this conflict, for the same reason the babies cannot leave the country. Once surrogate and mother are out of Ukraine, it is more than likely the country they seek asylum in will grant legal parental rights to the surrogate.
Some people are leaving the country with these babies, however, which introduces a new host of problems. Some surrogate mothers may be forced to register as the child’s mother and create legal issues down the road for the child’s adoption. Also, this is uncharted ground. Does fleeing your country as a refugee with another family’s child count as kidnapping? What are the legal repercussions for the surrogate and the parents? It’s hard to say until world events settle enough to dig in.
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