The World’s “Baby Store”? The Reality of the Surrogacy Industry Revealed in Ukraine


Has the nation of Ukraine become the globe’s baby store? That’s an issue that is now being faced by Ukrainians, but it’s also a matter that Christians need to consider very, very carefully. We need to look more closely at the debate now in Ukraine, because the ramifications start here in the United States. Let’s look at the story.

Back in March, we talked on The Briefing about the fact that the Guardian of London had broken a story that in the midst of the shutdowns and shelter in place orders of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ukrainian sources indicated that as many as 1,000 or more babies had been born to surrogate mothers, and those identified as the parents of the babies could not come and get them because of immigration and tourism restrictions. And thus, here was the perplexity in this article and it was heartbreaking. Many of the surrogate mothers had had to care for the babies they were caring for others, and they had developed the bond that happens naturally between mother and the child to whom the mother has given birth. And that was presented as a sociological problem, an unforeseen complication of the COVID-19 pandemic.

I pointed out back in May that this is a sign of the creation order at work, and it’s also a sign of the human rebellion against that order. God’s creation order means that mothers naturally love their children. They love those children who emerged from their own wombs. Surrogacy is an unnatural situation, and it’s not only unnatural in the sense that it doesn’t happen naturally, it’s unnatural in that it is even a revolt against nature, against the definition of motherhood. As you’re looking at surrogacy, you come to understand that a commercial transaction is now what redefines motherhood, a surrogate. And you’ll notice that in the industry, as they say—and yes, it’s called an industry—in the industry, they try not to use the phrase “surrogate mother,” rather, they just want to talk about surrogates. Mother just implies a bit too much honesty here.

But it is a commercial transaction, and in Ukraine, it is now big business. Ukraine has very few laws, if any, relevant to the issue of surrogacy and it has become a Ukrainian industry. It has shocked many Ukrainians in the realization that it is now so. The article that was published back in May in the Guardian pointed to the fact that those who lead the industry of surrogacy, do their very best to prevent the surrogate mother—and yes, I’m going to use that term because the baby is born from her womb—from having even the opportunity to hold the child much less to develop some kind of maternal bond. That, let’s just say would be a complication.

Now remember that in Romans 1, Paul talks about acts and he’s speaking about same sex affection and same sex acts that are contrary to nature. But it’s not just those acts and affections that are contrary to nature. The revolt against motherhood is also a revolt against nature. It is an unnatural act. It is right, it is natural in the purest sense of the creation order, that a mother would bond with her child and take care of that child and fiercely fight being separated from that child. Surrogacy is a commercial interaction that changes that relationship. Indeed, it defies that relationship, but as Christians understand the situation, it’s actually worse than that because it is actually often in the service of those who otherwise not only would not, but fundamentally biologically could not, conceive and carry a baby. That is to say, for instance, two men who might declare themselves to be married in a same sex marriage. Obviously they cannot have children, but the use of surrogacy and other modern reproductive services now facilitates the fact that you can have two men claim to be the parents of a child. They can even say, and it said of them that they “had the baby,” but of course they didn’t have the baby.

But as you’re looking at contemporary developments, it is very interesting that the New York Times yesterday ran an article on the same issue. This one, with the headline, “Ukraine’s Backlog of Babies Born to Surrogates Begins to Ease.” So we’re being told that the lifting of some of the travel restrictions means that this backlog of babies, just consider that in the headline, has begun to ease. Maria Varenikova, reporting for the New York Times from Kyiv, tells us, “For weeks, more than 100 foreign genetic parents of babies born to surrogate mothers in Ukraine had been waiting nervously, prevented by Ukraine’s rigid coronavirus restrictions from entering the country to pick up their newborns.”

The story continues, “But the government has been granting some exemptions and on Wednesday, having gone through a mandatory quarantine, 11 couples from Argentina and Spain were joyously united with their newest family members.” The story continues, “It was a first step in whittling down a backlog of babies born into Ukraine’s surrogate motherhood industry during the pandemic, that some officials have said could swell to as many as 1,000.” Previous news reports said that that number had already been reached.

But as we’re thinking about the world around us, trying to understand it, trying to apply a Christian worldview perspective, just consider what kind of language we encounter in the lead paragraph to this story. I wonder if you caught it, “For weeks more than 100 foreign genetic parents of babies born to surrogate mothers.” Genetic parents? Now, let’s just state the obvious. Throughout all of human history until very, very recently, when you’re talking about genetic parents, you would have to be talking about parents. Parenthood could not be separated into so-called genetic parenthood and surrogate parenthood, that would have been impossible.

But here’s where Christians need to understand that the modern revolution in sexual morality, and even in modern reproduction, could not have been possible without advanced reproductive technologies that have been available only in very recent times. Now in recent times, we now mean in the current generation or over the course of say the past 30 to 40 years, but many of these developments are even more recent than that. But here’s where Christians need to look at this and recognize that if you have to put the word “genetic” in front of “parents”—and by the way, in many cases, it is only genetic in front of one parent for now, especially if you’re dealing with two men—the reality is that you’re looking at a revolt against nature that is becoming even more profound and ever more complex.

This particular article that appeared in yesterday’s edition to the New York Times talks about a surrogacy agency in Ukraine, which is called Biotexcom. Maria Varenikova, the reporter, tells us that Biotexcom has faced criticism over the backlog of babies. Yes, that’s the term that’s being used here. And we’re told that the company, “Staged the event for maximum effect, bringing out the babies and uniting them with their joyful parents for the first time.” So understand the chronology. At some point, these parents, as they are defined, from Spain and Argentina had hired surrogates in Ukraine to be the surrogate mothers of these babies and then they had come to claim the babies after they were prevented from doing so right after the baby’s birth because of the COVID-19 shelter in place orders and restrictions on travel in Ukraine.

The article in yesterday’s edition of the New York Times also included photographs of the occasion, and yes, the company staged the occasion for maximum effect. It effectively turned its surrogacy services, as they are defined, into a giant infomercial and the New York Times cooperated by doing a news story on the event. Later, we are told, “The baby pickup on Wednesday is a step towards unwinding the problem,” that means the backlog of babies. “One of the more bizarre to arise from travel restrictions imposed to limit the spread of the coronavirus.” The article tells us that right now, Ukrainian government officials believe that there are about 1,000 surrogate mothers still expecting. “So far, 120 genetic parents of 125 babies have asked for assistance with travel, and 31 couples have arrived.” The article then tells us that the United States Embassy in Kyiv said in a statement on Wednesday, “That it had assisted 11 American parents with travel to Ukraine with three more scheduled to arrive next week.”

There’s a turning point in the article, at least in terms of the flow, when we read, “Ukraine is an outlier among nations, though not alone, in allowing foreigners access to a broad range of reproductive health services, including buying of eggs and arranging for surrogate births for a fee. Ukrainian law grants custody to the genetic parents.” Again, notice the phrase “genetic parents” coming up again and again and again, as if there’s another kind of parent, which means in this case, you’re talking about surrogate parents, but they really don’t even want to talk about them being parents. They want to refer to them merely as surrogates. What we’re watching here is a moral meltdown.

The New York Times article continues with this passage, “Biotexcom has been criticized for sometimes impregnating surrogate mothers with three embryos, increasing the chances of a successful pregnancy, but risking an abortion if all three develop.” Albert Tochylovsky, identified as the director of the company, Biotexcom said bluntly, and I quote, “We do it for the result. We work for the result.”

Now, perhaps at some point in your intellectual development and learning, you learned of the problem of an argument in which the end justifies the means. One of the saddest lessons of human history is that an argument in which the end justifies the means can lead to mass murder, even genocide. It can lead to all kinds, not only of sin, but of evil set loose within humanity, that turns very, very deadly. If the end justifies the means, then you can justify anything on the way to your desired end. And there is no more graphic or crude summary of that argument than what comes from this company director there in Ukraine, “We do it for the result. We work for the result.” In other words, take your moral concerns out of the country.

The article also has a great deal of poignancy with some of the surrogate mothers talking about their pain and being separated from their children permanently, forever. And the article also makes clear that many of these Ukrainian women do so out of financial desperation. But before leaving this issue, I want to turn to a different article. This one appeared in the Ukrainian media, the article’s by Yulia Gorban, and it appeared at the Ukrainian site Ukanfrom, and this article is headlined in English, “How Many Babies Do We Sell?” The article remembered that it was originally published in Ukraine for Ukrainians breaking the story to many citizens in that nation.

The article begins, “Dozens of babies born to Ukrainian surrogate mothers can’t be united with their legal parents because of lockdowns. That,” we are told, “sparked a debate over the wisdom of allowing foreigners to rent Ukrainian wombs.” A video posted last week to the website of the reproductive clinic Biotexcom,” let’s just note it’s the same company, again, “Showed row upon row of newborns lying in cots in a Kyiv hotel. The babies were born to Ukrainian surrogates, but their foreign parents hadn’t come to collect them because of the pandemic and the fact that the pandemic has closed borders.”

The article continues, “Biotexcom hoped the video would reassure parents that their newborns were being well looked after, but Ukrainian authorities saw it and were appalled at what they called the ‘uncontrolled sale’ of Ukrainian children abroad.” Well, there’s a little moral outrage there. We can hope that it’s actually a lot of moral outrage and we can hope that the Ukrainian officials who were outraged, but certainly also internationally embarrassed by the story will follow through and do something to make their country less of a wild, wild west for modern reproductive technologies and surrogacy. Mykola Kuleba, identified as the Ukrainian Presidential Commissioner for Children’s Rights, did say that in her view, surrogacy exploits Ukrainian women, and violates the children’s right to be raised by their birth mothers.

Now that’s an amazing statement. It’s a profoundly true statement. We have to be glad that at least some moral reason and truth shows up here in the form of the statement from this presidential commissioner for children’s rights, but notice what she says, because this is just very, very important. Ukrainian children, and that means all children, have the right to be raised by their birth mothers.

Now we understand that sometime indeed, all too often, there is the moral necessity of adoption, and we understand the Bible’s presentation of adoption not only is honorable, but as a picture of the gospel, the gospel of Jesus Christ. We also come to understand that the gospel promises that we are adopted by God, as in Christ, he has redeemed us and brought us unto himself and forgiven us our sins, has declared Christ’s righteousness to be imputed to us, and has declared us to be not only adopted, but joint heirs with Christ.

But as a general principle here, this Ukrainian presidential commissioner is really onto something, and the outrage is clear. The article then tells us that the surrogates in Ukraine, “Have no legal right to care for their offspring in the interim, even if they are willing to, which leaves these babies with nobody.” Just consider the heartbreak in this. We are being told here that as a matter of policy, and especially it comes back to that same company, the company is intent upon separating the babies from their surrogate mothers precisely so that there is no risk of the mother developing a relationship or a bond with the child. And even in the situation in which these babies are effectively stranded by this moral monstrosity of a policy, these mothers are not even allowed to care for their children when they are willing to.

The Presidential Commissioner, by the way, went on to say that there would be a push for a new law that would restrict surrogacy and limit the services, “To Ukrainian couples only.” In the commissioner’s words, Ukraine must no longer be the world’s “baby store.” That takes me back to the question that I asked in the beginning about Ukraine becoming the world’s baby store. What a horrible thought, what an even more horrible reality. What a picture in this case of the horrible nature of a new morality that is wedded to modern technology that is at war with nature and with God’s design.

And by the way, as we leave this story, lest Americans feel some form of moral superiority here, we need to recognize that throughout much of the United States, it is equally a wild, wild west of modern reproductive technologies. The laws in the United States can vary state by state, but in some places in the United States, you might as well be in Ukraine.