Surrogacy in Ukraine and the anger of parents, who are prevented from coming for their children

A few couples, who started using Ukrainian surrogacy services, cannot visit this country since March 16 Ukraine closed the border and restricted access for foreign citizens with some exceptions.

They received her photo a couple of hours after she was born. Océane was born 3,5 kilos and 56 cm tall on Tuesday 21 of April in Kyiv. Her parents Karine and Thierry met her via video link 2400 kilometers away with joy and anger at the same time.

“Since we did not receive permission to enter Ukraine, we could not see her, nor register her.

Our daughter is not only left without parents but also has no citizenship. Her fundamental rights are violated, and we are afraid that this situation will affect her future life, ” said Karin.

A couple from Paris decided in favor of Ukrainian surrogacy services in 2019. This was the end of their long journey.  “I have leukemia, and I became infertile after treatment. At the same time, we tried to conceive a child using IVF on donor eggs, and I even became pregnant after several attempts.

But our little girl was born 6 months prematurely, and unfortunately did not survive” , explains this forty-years-old woman. “Later, doctors found that pregnancy worsened my leukemia, and I was strongly advised not to try to get pregnant anymore. ”

More than a year after this painful event, Karin and her husband arrived in Kyiv to start a surrogacy program. This procedure is prohibited in France but allowed in Ukraine only for married heterosexual couples suffering from medically confirmed infertility. In the summer of 2019, an embryo created using Thierry’s and donor gametes was successfully transferred to the uterus of the surrogate mother. This was the beginning of her pregnancy. After 9 months, they planned a trip to Kyiv to see the birth of their daughter.

Closed borders
However, during this time, the COVID-19 epidemic broke out and ruined all plans. Since March 16, Ukraine has banned the entry of foreign citizens into its territory, with possible exceptions. In Paris, Karin and Thierry began to worry, and they were not alone in this.

Sophie Labaune-Parkinsson and her husband live in Australia. This 30-year-old Frenchwoman was born with Rokitansky syndrome, she does not have a uterus. Surrogacy is the only way for them to have a genetically linked child. They also chose Ukraine, because “this procedure is well organized, legal, and all its participants are protected: parents, child and surrogate mother”. The birth of their son is expected on April 27, and according to the terms of their contract, Sophie was supposed to be present at the birth.

At the first announcement of the border closure, a young woman, an export manager at one of the companies, decides to come to Europe as a precaution. She leaves her husband and country of residence to return to her family in Normandy and thus to approach Ukraine, which she hopes to get into soon.

Once she arrives, she contacts the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the French ambassador in Ukraine to ask for their support.

In order of entering the country, all foreigners should ask their representatives for an application in the form of a diplomatic document.

Without this “Verbal note”  their request will not be considered. Sophie sent the request, first in person, then through a lawyer. “I contacted a Ukrainian colleague who informed me that several countries, including Ireland, the United Kingdom, and Israel, sent this Verbal note. Following her instructions, I sent several letters explaining Sophie’s motivation, as well as the route she was going to follow, complying with the rules established by Ukraine, ”says Madame Catherine Clavin, member of the Bureau Office of Marseilles. The first letter is dated April 1.

“Uncertainty is the worst”
Pending for an answer, Sophie created in the social networks a small group of French couples whose babies should be born in the coming weeks in Kyiv. They communicate, support each other, discuss possible solutions.

In addition to Karin and Thierry from Paris, there is, for example, Sonia and Christophe from Tarne-et-Garonne. Together for 15 years, of which 11 were devoted to fruitless attempts to have a baby, they also went to Ukraine at the end of 2018.

“We should be happy because for us this is the end of more than 10 years of struggle, but we don’t know when we will be able to see our son,” Christoph shares his feelings.

Like Sophie and Karin, they wanted the baby to be born using their biological material, and the conditions proposed by the surrogacy agency suited them. “Everything was going very well, but everything changed 1.5 months ago,” says Christophe. Then the situation became very alarming, we should be happy, because for us this is the end of more than 10 years of struggle, but we don’t know when we can see our son. ” He should be born around May 2.

Maureen Monstin and Carles Farrarons expect the birth of his son on May 17, two weeks later. “We met with our surrogate mom, Inna, in January, and were with her during the ultrasound.

Since then we communicate, often share the news. It’s also stress for her, ” says Maureen. A French citizen, married to a Spaniard, and living in Spain, she used both methods to solve the situation. “The worst is uncertainty. If this lockdown continues, we won’t be able to get there before July or September. ”Having received the time of departure, without official permission, she was forced to refuse, having learned that the flight was canceled.

Makeshift nursery
To draw attention to their situation, this small group announced itself in the press and also launched an online petition. More than 1,200 signatures were collected in a few days as of April 23. On the part of the authorities, after 3 weeks of silence, they finally received an answer. In a template letter sent on April 17, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs limited itself to a reminder that “the external borders [of Ukraine] are closed to non-residents and entry and exit in non-priority cases for permanent residents are also prohibited.” At the same time, expressing “understanding of the difficulties caused by these restrictions”, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs reports that “it is impossible to consider such an exception from the regulations adopted by the state of Ukraine”.

This answer terrified Sophie Labon-Parkinsson. “There has never been a talk about children, nor about the possibility of sending a verbal note. In fact, we were not given any answer, ” she laments. Some of these couples are about to go to court. They expect in the coming days to file a petition for the protection of their fundamental rights in the administrative court of Paris. ‘’The purpose of this urgent procedure is to show that the inaction of the authorities violates the fundamental rights of French children, ” Sophie explains.

In the meantime, while no solution to the problem has been found, Océane, daughter of Karin and Thierry, will leave the Kyiv maternity hospital later this week, and she will be transported to an improvised nursery organized by the agency at the hotel, in which a team of nurses and doctors will take care of the babies in shifts.