Dozens of babies born to Ukrainian surrogate mothers are trapped in lockdown and unable to join their adoptive parents abroad as the country’s borders remain closed, a prominent Ukrainian lawmaker said Thursday.
Lyudmila Denisova, the Ukrainian parliament’s human rights ombudsman, said in a briefing on Thursday that she is working with the country’s Foreign Ministry to help their parents get permits to enter the country, whose borders are shut due to the coronavirus pandemic.
BioTexCom, a reproduction clinic, said in a video posted online that 46 babies are currently in its care at the Hotel Venice, a facility in Kiev that parents from US, UK, Spain and other countries are hoping to reach so they can take home children born of surrogate mothers.
“We ask other countries to make an exception from their policy and to let their citizens to unite with their children,” BioTexCom lawyer Denis Herman said in the video.
The clinic’s video, which BioTexCom said was an attempt to raise awareness about the matter, has gone viral.
In total, around 100 babies are stranded in reproduction clinics across the country, according to Denisova, who visited the center. If borders in Ukraine remain closed, about 1,000 children could be stranded, she said in a Thursday briefing, citing BioTexCom estimates.
Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs told CNN that the country’s borders remain closed in accordance with law, but that foreign nationals looking to resolve issues related to returning their children to their home country can send a request through their embassies to seek an exception.
The clip has revived a debate in Ukraine about the ethics of commercial surrogacy, with some officials and human rights activists renewing calls on the government to ban the practice.
Ukraine is one of the countries in the world that has not outlawed commercial surrogacy, and its clinics offer competitive prices compared with other countries. Ukraine also saw a surge in demand in 2015, after several countries in Asia banned the practice. Surrogacy laws vary by state in the US.
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Denisova, the ombudsman, has been a critic of the industry, saying in a Facebook post Wednesday that BioTexCom’s video shows Ukraine’s surrogacy industry advertises babies as a “high quality product” to prospective parents.
“Children in Ukraine must not be subject to human trafficking,” Denisova wrote, adding that she proposes to change the laws in order to allow only Ukrainians use such services.
BioTexCom, which is one of the higher-profile providers in Ukraine, was previously the subject of news reports for allegedly mistreating surrogate mothers. The company did not return CNN’s multiple calls for comment, but Albert Tochilovskyi, the head of the clinic, addressed the criticism in an interview with a local outlet, Ukrainski Novini.
“Honestly, we caused some hype around this and drew attention, but I think this is a success,” Tochilovskyi said. “Now the issue will be resolved, the officials are paying attention … Even though it provoked a storm of rage in some people, the problem will be solved.”
Tochilovskyi said he agrees that some regulations could be imposed in Ukraine, like increasing the cost of licenses the clinic must obtain to become a provider, but added he is “fine with the current situation in Ukraine.”
Denis Lapin in Kiev contributed to this report.