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Pregnancy & Birth

Ukraine is the new ‘go-to’ destination for couples desperate to be parents

But how much do would-be parents really know about the business which delivers their baby?

By Rebel Wylie
Using a surrogate to help you begin a family when traditional methods aren't working for you makes sense. However, in Australia complicated laws surrounding the issue mean it's not so straightforward.
Commercial surrogacy, where a woman is paid to become pregnant with and carry the embryo of another couple until birth, is illegal in Australia. In some states it's also illegal to seek a surrogate from overseas.
But for other Aussies the search for an overseas surrogacy continues. Now, with international surrogacy banned in Thailand and India, a thriving industry has sprung up in Ukraine, attracting couples from around the world, including Australia.
But how much do would-be Australian parents really know about the business which delivers their long-wanted baby?
Sadly, Foreign Correspondent investigation, Motherland which airs on Tuesday, August 20 has uncovered a Ukraine surrogacy industry out of control that exploits surrogate mothers and leaves babies abandoned.
Ukraine's Children's Ombudsman, has reports of at least ten children left behind in the Ukraine by the foreign parents and agencies who 'commissioned' them.
"This is an immoral business," the Ombudsman tells Motherland. "It does harm."
Motherland tracks down a little girl living in a children's home outside Kiev. She's been rejected by her American parents and is now stateless and an orphan. (Image: ABC Foreign Correspondent)
In Motherland, Europe correspondent Samantha Hawley goes behind the slick surrogacy websites and glossy brochures which promise the long-awaited dream of parenthood to expose the Ukraine industry's dark underbelly.
During the 6-month investigation, Foreign Correspondent speaks to those caught up in Ukraine baby business, uncovering a non-regulated industry that leaves parents-to-be, surrogates and the babies they carry exposed and vulnerable.
"It was a reckless decision to make, because we didn't have all the facts," says English woman Kate who turned to surrogacy after an illness left her unable to have a child.
It was nightmare situation for Kate when the birth of her baby boy in the Ukraine went badly and Kate was unable to get him the urgent medical help he desperately needed. It was a terrifyingly too late moment to realise she was out of her depth.
Kate now faces an uncertain future as she worries about the long-term impact the birth trauma will have on her son's health moving forward.
WATCH: A preview of Motherland. Continues after video ...
And for the surrogates themselves, the system is one that fails to support them. The owner of one of Ukraine's biggest surrogacy agencies is a man who's facing charges of child-trafficking and tax avoidance.
"They don't treat you as a human being," says one birth mother, who signed up as a surrogate to feed her family after the war with Russia left her homeless.
In order to earn a very small fee, she endured forced terminations, caesareans and callous treatment at the hands of her agency.
"Surrogate mothers… we're just a flow of incubators," she says.
Motherland airs on ABC TV at 8pm AEST Tuesday 20th August and again on Friday 23rd August at 1.30pm. It can also be seen on ABC NEWS channel on Wednesday 21st at 5:30am, Saturday 24th at 9.30pm & Sunday 25th at 5.30pm, plus anytime on ABC iview.

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