Global Surrogacy Destination Trends

Global Surrogacy Destination Trends

In this video, our director and award-winning fertility lawyer, Stephen Page, talks about the different countries around the globe where Australia intended parents go for surrogacy.


G’day Stephen Page from Page Provan Family and Fertility Lawyers. This video is being recorded in September 2023, and I’m talking about trends with surrogacy destinations.

This morning, I was at a lawyer’s breakfast, and there wasn’t any other surrogacy lawyers there. It’s very rare for me to find another one.

As I explained to them, I’m a big fish in a small pond and if you go back to, I think, 1860s Paris, there used to be the women who had those little goldfish bowls as earrings on the fish.

I was asked about, well, what are these things with going overseas? Where do people go? And somehow India got mentioned and Ukraine got mentioned. Well, where are the trends of where Australian intended parents are going?

Well, Australian intended parents could still be going to Ukraine, which has been the number two destination after the US in recent years, and believe it or not, Ukraine is back for business, baby.

I certainly don’t recommend going there, but it’s open, and not surprising, Australians generally are not going there in any great numbers.

Another popular destination for heterosexual couples through surrogacy was the Republic of Georgia, and I say was because I’ve done another video that says that, well, come the first of January 2024, it’s expected that there will be laws there saying not open for business for foreigners.

What happened in Georgia was copied what had already occurred in Russia. A small number of Australians have gone to Russia for surrogacy. Anyway, it’s one of the things that’s happened.

I suppose, out of the Ukraine war that Vladimir Putin said, We don’t want foreigners, then next thing you know, the Russian Parliament says, We don’t want foreigners through surrogacy, and so what’s left?

Well, a recent popular destination has been Greece, and as you may have seen or heard from my podcast or other videos, we’ve had the Greek Surrogacy disaster with Mediterranean Fertility Institute.

Eight out of the ten staff members were arrested on people trafficking and fraud offenses in August 2023. So quite a few Aussies have been caught up with that.

We’ve got Aussies, clients of mine, going to other IVF clinics in Greece. But you have to say after that, Greece certainly is not the favourite destination at the moment. So what’s left? Well, you could go to African countries.

But my experience is generally, Australian intended parents, unless they come from that African country, don’t want to go there. There’s been a push to go to Uganda of late. The place where the UN Human Rights Office has been kicked out, where they have vicious anti-gay laws, and they don’t have binding surrogacy agreements.

What do you reckon about Uganda being a great place for surrogacy? I don’t. So the trend has therefore been with the Americas and moving from North to south. Canada has been typically the number three or number four destination for surrogacy in the 2022 year.

It’s the number three destination for surrogacy for Australians, and at the moment, it’s dealing with the impact of COVID and the war in Ukraine. There’s been difficulty with matching. I’ve had clients who’ve left Canada decide to go to the US to do surrogacy because they’re sick of waiting.

Having said that, recently, clients or a couple of mine have matched, so they waited over a year. So, it’s a wait and see game, I think, in Canada. The two leading agencies, in my view, haven’t been taking clients on of late because they haven’t been able to match in a timely manner.

It may change by the end of the year, let’s see. Moving south, the United States, as you can see on a different video, it’s certainly doable in the US. There’s certainly waiting times there, and they vary dramatically depending on the agency, and I’ll talk about that in an upcoming video about choosing agency in the US and waiting times.

But the cost is really, really high, 250,000 Australian to 300,000 Australian from beginning to end. It’s really blown out, and I’ve talked to another video about why the cost in the US has blown out, and then we’ve got four that are left, or five potentially, or six potentially, but really four that are available, and Uruguay could be available, but I’ve not heard any Australians do Uruguay.

Brazil is available, but you’ve got to be a Brazilian citizen and if you’ve migrated from Brazil to Australia, it’s okay, you can have dual citizenship in both places. So that’s all right and there’s only been a couple who’ve done surrogacy in Brazil. But the other places, north to south are Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, and Argentina.

So of those four, there’s risk, and I don’t back away from saying that you’re dealing with Latin American countries. They are simply riskier destinations in a variety of means, then say, Canada, then say, the US.

Mexico, I think, is probably the least risky of the lot, and we’ve got to take great care of Mexico. You’ve got to take great care with the quality of the IVF. I’ve certainly heard some bad stories about some clinics, and the quality of the lawyers, and there’s a difference in views between lawyers in Mexico, which is of deep concern to me.

In the view of some lawyers, the surrogate remains on the birth certificate, and the view of others, she doesn’t. In my view, there is certainly I’ve heard from several Mexican lawyers that it’s possible for the intended parents to be named on the birth certificate with a pre-birth order made before the child was born.

So that’s doable, but you’ve got to be very careful. Why I think Mexico is the least risky despite all the warning signs about Mexico, is because Mexico is big. It’s the largest Spanish speaking country, it’s got about 110 or 120 million people living there. Trying to turn Mexico around is, I suppose, like trying to steer the Queen Mary, as opposed to turning a bicycle.

So banning surrogacy, I think, will be harder there. There’s been Supreme Court judgments there recognising surrogacy, so that’s why with care, in the right spot in Mexico, Mexico is a federation like Australia, except it’s got 31 states, not six states and two territories.

You’ve got to be careful about where you do it, who you do it with in the IVF, who you do it with the lawyers, but doable. Colombia is certainly doable, I’m told… Sorry, Guatemala, I’m going ahead of myself. Guatemala is certainly doable.

There is a program in Guatemala that’s been operating for a very long time, but not large scale, and it’s come out of an adoption agency, which is operated for a generation. So, I think they get women and I think they get kids, which is good.

The problem about Guatemala, or one of the problems about Guatemala that stands out, is that the surrogate remains on the birth certificate, and other countries where the intended parents come from, it’s easy to remove the surrogate from the birth certificate from Australia, it’s not.

So it’s certainly the cheapest of the places in my view, but it’s not an ideal outcome to have a remaining on the birth certificate. The third place is Colombia, and that’s certainly been marketed to Australians, and it’s in the top six destinations in 2022, and particularly marketed to gay couples.

There have been reports of shortages of surrogates in Colombia. Certainly, Colombia has been a very big destination. But from the legal process, you have the same issue as the other destinations in Latin America that it’s happening in a bit of a vacuum.

There’s certainly been a Supreme Court decision validating surrogacy contracts, who the parents are. But at birth, the surrogate’s on the birth certificate, and there’s a bit of difficulty getting her off and so then one of the agencies has said we won’t take part in it.

You do it by way of a court order, there’s a process for doing that. But from an Australian point of view, it’s a timing thing about whether you do that before you apply for citizenship or after you certainly don’t do it when you’re applying for citizenship.

So it just requires a bit of thought. One of my colleagues in Latin America said there have been noises made in Colombia to try and clamp down on foreigners, Westerners, going to Colombia for surrogacy, and you never know how that’s going to play out and this is the uncertainty about any of these destinations.

Is it going to be smooth? We have a child and everything’s great and we go home and then it changes? Or as we’ve seen with previous surrogacy dramas, it happens halfway through the pregnancy or straight after the child is born, that’s the unknown factor.

Australians have now been going to Argentina for about the last year. I was told in June that the first Australian children to be born were going to be born in August. There hadn’t been any Australian children born through surrogacy in Argentina since about 2009.

So unknown factor about how are we going to bring the children home? Hopefully, okay. But the difficulty I’ve had is I’ve talked to four different Argentinean lawyers, had four different answers about where’s the truth lie? And one of those reflected what those with money in Argentina do.

They didn’t do surrogacy in Argentina, they did it in the US. That’s how trusting they were of the local process, went overseas to do surrogacy. So, there are complications with Argentina. We’ll see how it plays out, I really don’t know how it’s going to go.

I hope it works. But I’m told by one of my contacts there that there have been real noises by Argentinean officials worried about the number of foreigners going there for surrogacy. Again, if the roller doors… The roller doors may not come down, but if they come down, they may come down quick.

So, those are the surrogacy destinations. It’s not a particularly good outlook at the moment, but that’s where we’re at. Thanks.

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