“Since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, many media outlets have started to report on the situation in which several French couples participating in the surrogacy program abroad found themselves.” Sophie and her husband explain that they are “locked in France” and “are not able to be present during their surrogate mother delivery in Ukraine.” François-Xavier and Thomas are located on the opposite sides of the Atlantic, and only François-Xavier managed to arrive in the USA, where surrogacy is allowed, on time. These reports, as a lawyer Betty Mahaur states “emphasize how this industry has covered the whole world.”
According to this lawyer, “previous crises, such as the Nepal earthquake of 2015, distinguished “producing countries” and “client countries” in this particular market. For example, Israel “urgently sent a plane to pick up 25 children born from surrogate mothers in Nepal to save the kids from a humanitarian disaster, ”which followed the earthquake. But “the surrogacy market has developed a lot since then, ”explains Betty Maor. “In response to many scandals, clinics in Asian producing countries (India, Thailand, Nepal) were closed for foreigners.” And “it was Ukraine that became the new destination for infertile couples from west and Asia.” The reasons for this popularity are the following: “very loyal legislation concerning surrogacy,” “geographical proximity to European customers “, and “prices than are 3-4 times lower than those of North American competitors.” “Biotexcom Clinic, a leader in the field of surrogacy in Ukraine, offers prices from 39,900 to 64,900 euros for a VIP package”, while surrogacy in the United States costs about 200,000 dollars. ” According to the founder of Biotexcom, “99% of customers are foreigners.”
Another success factor is that Ukraine seems to be a “more ethically acceptable option” than Asian countries where “women poverty is exploited”. “However, observers note that the war in Ukraine and the economic crisis provoked a significant increase of requests from the potential surrogate mothers,” says Betty Mahaur. “The current remuneration for a Ukrainian surrogate mother varies from 10,000 to 20,000 euros for pregnancy,” which “corresponds to about 5-10 years of work with a local salary (local minimum wage is about 175 euros per month).” But “it also means that a surrogate receives less than a third of the total program cost, while the remainder goes to intermediaries (paid for legal services and to clinics)”, Betty emphasizes. “The only nuance is that the Ukrainian law allows only heterosexual couples to use surrogacy services,” which forces homosexual couples to go to “other places, mainly in the United States.”
Betty Mahaur says that “the situation where you can earn as much money for a surrogacy program as after 10 years of work for a minimum wage is also common in Asian countries.” “Hence the conclusion is that to agree to endure pregnancy and survive the separation from her child, a woman needs to be paid the equivalent amount of money as for 10 years of work for a minimum wage.” The British experience seems to confirm that: in Britain, “despite the possibilities offered by law, English women are in no hurry to become surrogates and more than two-thirds of English couples continue to look for options abroad.” According to the lawyer, “the basis of the surrogacy industry is this economic inequality between “the client countries” and “the producing countries”.
In the context of the pandemic, “the closure of borders undoubtedly disrupts the functioning of this industry,” and therefore it must be reorganized. ” Thus, Biotexcom reduced the cost of maintaining children from 50 euros to 25 euros per day, in anticipation of the day when couples could come for their babies. ” “At the same time, this situation makes the couples worry, as they fear that loneliness will affect the newborns’ condition, though they do not really think about how the separation from a surrogate mother affected them.”
“COVID-19 showed the general public the geography of the masks and medicines production more deeply than any other crisis. Along with this, relations within the surrogacy industry and its polarization have also been well disclosed.”