In a significant move by the Ministry of Health, Georgia is set to undergo a major transformation in its surrogacy laws, with potential far-reaching consequences for both aspiring parents and surrogate mothers. The proposed legislation, expected to come into effect on January 1, 2024, aims to prohibit foreign couples from engaging in surrogacy services within the country, reserving this practice exclusively for Georgian citizens. Additionally, the draft law will address the compensation of surrogate mothers, emphasizing a principle of altruism.
Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, during a government session, highlighted the need for these legal changes, citing concerns over unregulated practices, direct orders for surrogacy services online, and the ambiguity surrounding the future of children born through these arrangements. The government’s aim is to provide clarity and protection for the surrogacy process within its borders.
Current Legal Framework
These proposed changes represent the latest attempt by Georgian authorities to amend the legal framework surrounding extracorporeal fertilization and surrogacy. In 2020, a legal amendment was introduced to restrict surrogacy to married couples or those in de facto cohabitation for at least one year. Tea Tsulukiani, the then-Minister of Justice, aimed to combat potential threats, such as trafficking of babies born through surrogacy and transnational criminal activities.
Georgia has had legal regulations governing surrogacy since 1997. These regulations involve various legal instruments, including laws related to health protection, patient rights, civil acts, Georgian citizenship, and the legal status of foreigners and stateless individuals. Rules concerning the removal of children born through surrogacy are further outlined in a 2016 joint order by the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Internal Affairs.
It is challenging to ascertain the exact number of children born through surrogacy in Georgia, especially those intended for foreign couples. According to the Service Development Agency of the Ministry of Justice, they do not maintain statistics on the exit of children born through surrogacy from the country.
Surrogacy Agencies’ Perspective
The surrogacy and donation agencies in Georgia were caught off guard by the proposed changes. Agencies like “IVIEF Tours Georgia” have been operational since 2014, facilitating surrogacy programs for both Georgian and foreign couples. The potential shift towards altruism and banning services for foreign couples came as a surprise to these agencies.
While the current legal framework mandates rigorous processes for surrogacy, these agencies had been working with the Ministry of Health to establish more specific legislation. The unexpected announcement has raised concerns among agencies, who may find it challenging to operate under the proposed legal changes.
Surrogate Mothers’ Compensation
One of the key aspects of the draft law is the emphasis on the principle of altruism regarding surrogate mothers’ compensation. While the law aims to ensure that surrogate mothers are compensated for their time and inconvenience, the exact amount remains unspecified. Some surrogate mothers fear that the reduction in demand due to the ban on foreign couples may lead to lower compensation.
The general manager of “IVIEF Tours Georgia,” Natia Janadze, believes that compensation for surrogate mothers should be logical and adequate. However, she also acknowledges the potential for a decrease in compensation due to the drop in demand.
Impact on Surrogate Mothers
The proposed legislation has sparked concerns among surrogate mothers, many of whom engage in surrogacy to improve their economic circumstances. For most surrogate mothers, this income is crucial for addressing socio-economic challenges, including debt and providing for their own children.
Maya, a surrogate mother, emphasizes the importance of adequate compensation, and she is uncertain about the implications of the “principle of altruism.” She worries that the proposed changes might leave surrogate mothers without fair remuneration.
Eka, another surrogate mother, highlights the transformative impact of surrogacy compensation on her life. The proposed changes may limit her ability to secure housing for her family. For women like Eka, the prospect of a drastic reduction in compensation is a major concern.
Prospective Parents’ Concerns
The proposed legal changes have also left prospective parents in a state of uncertainty. Salome, who intended to have a child through surrogacy with her Swedish husband, questions whether they will still be able to access surrogacy services in Georgia.
While the law will limit surrogacy to Georgian citizens, the situation is complex for mixed couples or those with international ties. Salome worries about the implications for her family’s future.
Impact on the Surrogacy Industry
Some prospective parents hope that the new law will lead to more affordable surrogacy services. They believe that the absence of foreigners will reduce prices and make surrogacy accessible to Georgian couples.
However, this optimism is met with skepticism. Others worry that prices may rise for Georgian couples as surrogacy agencies lose their foreign clientele. Surrogate mothers may be unwilling to accept lower compensation.
An Uncertain Future
As Georgia stands on the brink of significant surrogacy law changes, there are numerous questions, concerns, and uncertainties among surrogate mothers, surrogacy agencies, and prospective parents.
While the government’s aim is to regulate and protect the practice, the consequences for those involved remain uncertain. As the draft law moves forward, the country will continue to grapple with the complexities of surrogacy, the rights of surrogate mothers, and the aspirations of families who seek the joy of parenthood through this method.