Nurses care for about 30 babies in a kyiv basement.  They were gestated by Ukrainian women contacted by foreign couples.  AP PHOTO

When you long for a baby so much, you just want to give it the best you can once you cuddle it in your arms. The thousand battles you fought for me to be with you will have been worth it.

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But what happens when a war gets in the way? The room you had prepared is still empty. Meanwhile, thousands of miles away, a cold basement houses dozens of babies – yours included – who must now be fed by nurses sheltering in a bomb-ridden city.

The russian invasion on Ukraine has exposed a practice that goes beyond geopolitics and has multiple edges: the Surrogate motherhood or gestation by substitution, a very widespread technique in the country that, in recent years, has become a mecca for thousands of couples in the world who turn to women willing to carry their babies in their wombs.

In a basement of Kyiv there are about 30 babies born by Ukrainian women, but whose parents are from different countries and who, due to the war, cannot reach Ukraine To pick them up. And these are the babies that are known. In the rest of the city and the country there must be many more who have been born in this last month of war or who are about to be born, and about whose situation little is known.

Nurses care for about 30 babies in a kyiv basement. They were gestated by Ukrainian women contacted by foreign couples. AP PHOTO

“Ali, our baby, is in a bunker in kyiv and we have no way of getting there. I don’t speak UkrainianFarook, Ali’s father, comments desperately to the Euronews network, which preserved his real name.

Farook and his wife, a Canadian national, tried for 10 years to have a baby and their last option was surrogacy and they decided to do it in Ukraine. Thanks to the laws of the country, which have regulated surrogate motherhood with more lax regulations, thousands of couples go to agencies in Ukraine, making it the most requested option by foreigners seeking to become parents.

It is estimated that some 2,500 children are born each year by surrogacy in Ukraine. The requirements state that they must be married and heterosexual couples who can prove that they cannot have children for medical reasons. On the other hand, pregnant women must have had at least one child in order to be chosen and they are paid around 15,000 dollars.

“We are staying here to preserve our lives and the lives of the babies. We hide here from the bombings and from this horrible misery”, tells the foreign press Lyudmilia Yashchenko, one of the nurses in the kyiv bunker. “We practically did not sleep. We are working all day.”

For now, the basement has everything it needs to properly care for and feed the babies, but if the siege continues, the fate of the babies is at risk.

The parents of the babies are doing their best to get to Ukraine to pick up their children.  REUTERS
The parents of the babies are doing their best to get to Ukraine to pick up their children. REUTERS

Crossroads

The drama of the war has uncovered this humanitarian crisis: an ‘industry’ that used to attract thousands of ‘clients’ from all over the world, but who are now at a crossroads. The matter is far from simple. On one side, there are parents desperate to be with their children; on the other, the women who harbor other people’s babies in their wombs and who do not know whether to flee Ukraine to preserve their lives and that of their families or stay to give birth; and that of babies, the most vulnerable in this story, whose right to identity is being affected because, according to Ukrainian law, their biological parents must be present at the time of birth to confirm their nationality.

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Because surrogacy is not regulated in the same way in all countries, or simply not, the fate of babies is complicated, whether pregnant Ukrainians decide to take refuge in Poland, Moldova, Georgia or any other country.

“There is a scenario of total uncertainty”Paula Siverino, Doctor of Law and member of the UNESCO International Bioethics Committee, comments to this newspaper. “The right to identity is foundational because it enables the exercise of all other rights. So, there is a serious danger that children who have been born, or who will be born in the middle of the war, will be deprived of their filiation since there is no uniform recognition of this in European countries”Add.

The war is forcing thousands of people to flee Ukraine to neighboring countries such as Poland or Moldova.  REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko
The war is forcing thousands of people to flee Ukraine to neighboring countries such as Poland or Moldova. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

In the midst of the drama that living a war already entails, both the desperate parents who are far away and the pregnant women will have to deal with the jurisprudence about what will happen to the children. In the case of pregnant women, it is clear that they decided to gestate, but not take care of a baby, but they could be forced to do so if the conflict continues and they cannot deliver the babies, as appropriate.

“These babies are being born under a circumstance of force majeure, which is war. The judge who finally takes charge of these cases should not rely on the fact that they were born in this or that country where surrogate motherhood is not regulated. The best interests of the child must be seen and the important thing is that her identity be clarified, regardless of where she is born ”Siverino clarifies.

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“In contexts of war, all the problems are exacerbated, but I think that what should not be lost sight of is that we are talking about pregnant people who have to be protected, as well as guaranteeing that children who are the product of this type of method of reproduction can meet their parents. If one does not guarantee this, we would be attributing unwanted motherhood to these people, because they wanted to gestate, but not assume motherhood, and it is important to make that difference, “ adds Brenda Alvarez, a lawyer for Justicia Verde, an expert in sexual diversity, sexual and reproductive rights.

While the bombing continues over Ukraine, the babies most awaited by their parents are still waiting to meet them. They, more than anyone, pray for the war to end soon.

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