There is a growing demand for surrogacy in the nation of Georgia as women, desperate to provide for their families, are being recruited to rent their wombs for far less money than American surrogates are being paid.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) shared several stories of parents in Georgia (one of the poorest European nations) who are struggling to pay their bills and have turned to surrogacy as a way to make ends meet or get ahead. One such woman is Nino, 38 years old and carrying twins for another couple. It’s her second surrogate pregnancy. Her husband’s income is unreliable and they have trouble paying rent, so Nino agreed to surrogacy as a way to buy a house. However, the pregnancy has been tough on her, and the doctor has put her on bed rest. Her children are now handling the housework, though her 22-year-old son “was fiercely opposed” to the surrogacy.
Nino, who was married at 15, said, “… I explained that I was doing it for our well-being, that I could see no other way out. The other solution was to go abroad and start working there, which I didn’t want. I didn’t want to leave my children and move far from home.”
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RFE/RL reports, “Families in this Caucasus state have long relied on remittances to keep them afloat financially from relatives in Russia and, increasingly, the European Union since visa regimes were liberalized there five years ago. But surrogacy is an increasingly conspicuous, homegrown industry that has flourished in Georgia under a loose legislative and regulatory framework seemingly aimed at capitalizing on rising global demand and a reluctance in other countries to embrace birthing-for-hire.”
Salome, a 33-year-old mother of two, is carrying her third surrogate baby so that she and her husband can buy an apartment. She has hidden the pregnancies from her mother. “I did everything so no one knew about it,” she said. “Even if I call this a job, I’m embarrassed.”
Typically, it is underprivileged women who act as surrogates for wealthy women.
The billion-dollar fertility industry offers poor women a perceived way out of their financial uncertainties — they just have to rent out their bodies. Surrogates in Georgia are paid between $10,000 and $20,000 while surrogates in the United States are paid up to $180,000.
Tamar Gvazava, who has run her own surrogate agency for nine years, acts as the intermediary between the bio-parents, the clinic, and the surrogate because the “clinic and the doctor don’t have time to pay attention to the surrogate.”
“The majority of surrogate mothers take this step because of the harshest of social conditions,” she explained. “These women [usually] have children, no house, no income [of their own].”
But Nino ignores these warnings of exploitation through surrogacy, and this time around she stands to make $15,000 plus medical expenses. But, like Salome, she mostly keeps her surrogacy a secret and plans to tell neighbors that her newborn son died, rather than admit the truth. It is considered shameful in Georgia to be a surrogate, though it was one of the first nations in the world to allow third-party reproduction back in 1997 with the first child born to a surrogate mother in 2007.
While there is a rule in Georgia that a surrogate has to wait six months before renting out her womb again, the rule is said to be often ignored because of the high demand for surrogates. Ads in subway stations for one agency now offer $20,000 to $25,000 to surrogates. The prospective parents are almost always foreigners — whose interest in a Georgia surrogate has been boosted due to the war in Ukraine, which was considered the surrogacy capital of the world before being attacked by Russia. Georgia is considered the second poorest country in Europe, after Ukraine.
Gvazava said they are ready to go so far as to transport women across international borders in order to impregnate them for wealthy foreign couples. “We’re already looking for ways to bring surrogate mothers from neighboring countries, transfer embryos here, then return [them] to their own countries and, in the final months of pregnancy, bring them back to Georgia to give birth here,” she explained.
Surrogacy is part of a billion-dollar baby-making industry that doesn’t appear to think twice about exploiting vulnerable women in an effort to profit financially. Meanwhile, the surrogates that are hired in Georgia and in other poor nations are going against their own consciences and renting their bodies despite the risks in order to simply pay their bills — a sure sign of exploitation.