The invasion of Russia is wreaking havoc with surrogacy in Ukraine. This shows why Australia needs to change its laws

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Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a nightmare for expectant parents engaged in surrogacy arrangements in the country.

Ukraine has become a popular destination for surrogacy. Although exact figures are difficult to obtain, it is estimated that between 2,000 and 2,500 babies are born each year through surrogacy in Ukraine.

BioTexCom, one of Ukraine’s largest fertility clinics, expects 200 babies to be born through surrogacy by the end of May.

More than ten Australian families are expecting babies to be born via surrogacy in Ukraine by the first week of May.

But it is currently extremely difficult for these parents to cross the Ukrainian border to meet their babies. It’s a disaster for babies, surrogates and future parents.

The babies are left in limbo, born in a war zone without their parents to care for them. Surrogates have to give birth in a war zone and then cannot hand over the babies to the intended parents.

When it comes to Intended Parents, it’s hard to imagine how painful it must be knowing that your baby has been born or is about to be born, but not knowing how or when you can reach them.

The situation shows why Australia needs to change its surrogacy laws.

Why do Australians travel to Ukraine for surrogacy?

Ukraine is a popular destination for surrogacy for several reasons.

One is financial. Surrogacy in Ukraine is more affordable than in the United States, for example. Surrogacy in Ukraine is estimated to cost around 40,000 USD (A$54,000), while surrogacy in the United States can cost up to 150,000 USD (A$202,000).

Another is legal. Under Ukrainian law, unlike Australia for example, intended parents are recognized as the legal parents of a child born via surrogacy at birth.

Although it is worth noting that only heterosexual married couples can access surrogacy in the country.



Read more: Overseas arrests and uncertainty show why Australia must legalize compensated surrogacy


For the vast majority of people, surrogacy is not their preferred way of having a child, but an option of last resort.

For example, for an Australian couple, the subject of a recent Sydney Morning Herald article, surrogacy was their only option. They had lost three pregnancies and their use of surrogacy in Ukraine was the culmination of an excruciating six-year journey.

Australian laws encouraging cross-border surrogacy

The stress of cross-border surrogacy highlights this further. The vast majority of Australians who travel overseas to access surrogacy arrangements would prefer to do so at home, but Australian law presents a significant barrier.

In Australia, only “altruistic surrogacy” is permitted, where the surrogate mother does not benefit financially from the arrangement.

But “paid” or “commercial” surrogacy, where the surrogate receives a financial benefit, is prohibited.

The prohibition on compensation is problematic for a number of reasons. From the surrogate’s perspective, it is inherently abusive to deny a woman payment for her reproductive work. And the obsession with ‘altruism’ amplifies problematic stereotypes and expectations of the ‘self-sacrificing woman’.

From the perspective of expectant parents, the ban on compensation has led to a predictable shortage of Australian women willing to become surrogates.

This has fueled the popularity of compensated cross-border surrogacy, which is illegal for residents of New South Wales, Queensland and the ACT but widely practiced.

For some, surrogacy is their only option.
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What is the solution ?

All Australian states and territories should amend their laws to allow compensated surrogacy.

Regulating behaviors that are already happening and that law enforcement is turning a blind eye to has three key benefits:

  1. the regulations ensure that the rights of all parties are properly protected. Regulations in Australia may prevent overseas operation

  2. in a country like Australia, which has a social safety net in place to protect the most vulnerable, the issue of compensation can be separated from exploitation

  3. compensation is a matter of justice. It is unfair to allow many people involved in surrogacy – clinics, lawyers, counselors and others – to be compensated for their time and services, but not the person who works the hardest and bears the most risk.

The concern over the legalization and regulation of compensated surrogacy in Australia is meaningless.

The Australian legal system has the capacity to do this and in doing so would minimize the risk of exploitation.

It would also likely reduce the number of Australians going overseas for paid surrogacy, with the attendant risks and stressors.

The most sensible solution, and the solution that best protects the rights of all concerned, is for Australia to properly regulate (rather than outlaw) paid surrogacy arrangements so that desperate prospective parents do not are not forced abroad.

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