51 Ukrainian babies born to surrogate mothers are stranded at a hotel in Kiev because their adoptive parents can’t cross the border

Nearly 100 surrogate-born babies are stranded in Ukraine because their parents are unable to collect them due to border closures imposed because of the coronavirus.

As one of the few countries that grants foreigners this service, Ukraine boasts a robust surrogacy industry. It’s an option that appeals to Ukrainian women because of the nation’s economic woes, the Associated Press reported. A surrogate mother can earn about $17,000, Sky News said.

Around 50 clinics conduct surrogate births nationwide. However, this usually thriving trade has hit a snag during the pandemic, prompting concerns that an extended lockdown will put pressure on clinics and be difficult for parents, who hail from 12 countries, including the United States, Britain, China, Italy, Spain, France, Germany, and Mexico, AP said.

This has prompted Ukraine’s human rights ombudswoman, Lyudmyla Denisova, to seek help from authorities.

“About 100 children are already waiting for their parents in different centers of reproductive medicine. And if quarantine is extended, then it will not be about hundreds, but about thousands,” ombudswoman Lyudmila Denisova said, according to AP.

As of Friday, Ukraine has 17,330 confirmed coronavirus cases and 476 deaths, based on data from Johns Hopkins University.

The country shut down its borders to foreigners in March and these restrictions are expected to remain in place till May 22.

Nurses care for surrogate-born babies at Kiev’s Venice Hotel. SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty Images

The issue garnered attention when BioTexCom, Ukraine’s largest surrogacy clinic, shared footage of rows of bassinets in Kiev’s Venice Hotel, where clients usually stay, AP reported. In all, BioTexCom is caring for 51 newborns, Denisova said, adding that an additional 15 babies are with parents who were able to enter Ukraine before the shutdown.

“The children are all provided with food, a sufficient number of employees look after them, but there is no substitute for parental care,” Denis Herman, the company’s lawyer, said to Sky News. “We try to send photos of children to the parents, we try to make conference calls, but this cannot replace communication in direct contact.”

Parents will only be allowed into Ukraine if the relevant embassy receives a request to that effect, government officials told Sky News.

“The issue remains unresolved, but we are developing a mechanism to get out of the situation,” Denisova said to AP on Thursday. This would involve foreigners issuing statements to Denisova’s office, which would then reach out to the Foreign Ministry.

Rafa Aires was among the few who were able to get into Ukraine to collect his daughter, Marta, before the lockdown was enforced. Now, however, he can’t get home, Sky News reported.

His wife is back home in Spain because work prevented her from traveling.

“Every day I make video calls with my wife for one hour or an hour and a half for her to see the baby,” Aires said. “It is very difficult.”

BioTexCom’s “wonderful” nurses and medical staff have been of tremendous help, he added.

However, according to Denisova, BioTexCom’s images spotlight a “massive and systemic” surrogacy industry with babies being advertised as a “high-quality product,” Sky News said. She wants Ukrainian law to be modified to reserve surrogacy for citizens.

In response, BioTexCom’s founder Albert Tochilovsky said, “We were prepared for this negative reaction.”

Rhea Mahbubani May 15, 2020