The Spanish consulate in Ukraine this week began registering some 30 babies born by surrogate mothers, who had been blocked from leaving the country due to concerns over human trafficking and medical malpractice in the industry.
Every year, aspiring parents from across Europe make similar journeys — dodging surrogacy bans at home by travelling abroad and spending large sums of money in their bid to have a baby.
The high cost of assisted reproductive treatment in North America is forcing many US citizens to look to other countries for high-quality medical care at a lower cost.
In 2016, nearly 1.4 million Americans travelled outside the U.S. in search of medical treatment, compared to 750,000 in 2008. Currently, medical tourism, or cross border reproductive care as the media have labelled it, is rising by 25% per year.
The primary reasons for these trips, according to a study conducted by the Task Force on Ethics and Law from the ESHRE, and published in the scientific journal Human Reproduction (Shenfield et al. 2010), is the difficulty in accessing certain treatments due to legal restrictions, long waiting lists, and thirdly, the search for high-quality reproductive treatment.
The main countries hosting these medical tourists in Europe are Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Switzerland, Slovenia and Spain. The fact that the latter has the most permissive legislation in terms of assisted reproduction, together with the European regulations on mobilisation of biological samples, and high medical and technical quality make Spain the top destination. It is also the country with the most egg donations.
An international conference is currently trying to regulate surrogacy, a global business estimated to be worth roughly $5 billion a year, and the EU should weigh in on the ongoing negotiations and make all efforts to condemn and limit the practice whose principal victims are children, writes Sophia Kuby.
Sophia Kuby is the director of EU advocacy at ADF International.
Surrogacy agencies, clinics, lawyers, and medical doctors cash in on the business of selling sperm and egg cells, creating embryos in vitro, implanting them into a woman’s hired womb and providing the “commissioning parents” with a baby.
The Hague Conference on Private International Law, an intergovernmental institution comprising 82 members, including all EU member states and the EU itself, has stepped into the ethical and legal quagmire created by this business.