Surrogates Survive the War in Ukraine

It’s been over eight months since Russia invaded Ukraine, and the daily images of bombed buildings, bloodied survivors, military tanks, and a nation bravely fighting for its freedom have largely subsided. Western and central Ukraine have stabilized on a colossal scale, and, although fighting continues in the eastern part of the country, Ukrainians have forged a path of endurance and continuance, and with it have showcased the ability of surrogates and their agencies to navigate, adapt, and survive a war.

With its lower pricing and unregulated market, Ukraine has been an alluring destination for married heterosexual couples seeking surrogacy. With this unregulated market, however, there have always been risks including no laws to support surrogacy and no court orders declaring legal guardianship to the biological parents, and now adding the landscape of war into the mix has created some very harrowing times for the whole industry in Ukraine.

Faced with this continued presence of war, surrogates and their agencies have been forced to adapt to the desperate need for protection. In a state of uncertainty at the beginning of the war, many surrogates were left scrambling for a safe place to stay and a place to give birth. They found themselves sleeping in cars or in tunnels to avoid bombing and shelling. Some fled, but others stayed behind with their own families. Many intended parents wanted to evacuate their Ukrainian surrogates to other countries, but with many neighboring countries not supporting surrogacy and without any regulations, there was a risk those surrogates would be deemed the legal parents. For example, in Poland, The New York Times reported, if a surrogate were to go into labor and give birth there, she would be considered the child’s mother, and the intended parents would have to go through a lengthy adoption process in order to bring their biological child home.

Although some countries, such as the United Kingdom, provided refuge for a limited number of Ukrainian surrogates, it became apparent that for many others traveling to neighboring countries would not be possible considering the risks, so agencies and their surrogates began to adapt. They began finding new ways to stay safe and new places to deliver babies in cities that were not under attack.

Surrogate Viktoria, who requested only her first name be used for privacy, huddled in a basement for months to escape shelling. She was eventually able to escape with her family and move to a safer area in part because her employer was able to offer financial aid and an apartment in Kyiv, the nation’s capital. She told The New York Times, “I would not have left if the clinic had not persuaded me.”

Viktoria is not alone, as dozens of other Ukrainian surrogates have fled to safety with the assistance of surrogacy agencies, which have pulled them out of Russian-occupied areas, given them financial aid, and found them places to stay in safer parts of the country during the duration of their pregnancy. In some instances, intended parents have also sent money to help ensure the safety of their Ukrainian surrogate and unborn child.

Other surrogates have found safety on their own. Anna, carrying a baby for an Argentine couple, was supposed to be traveling to Kyiv to a clinic, but there was no transportation, so she hid in her mom’s basement in Russian-occupied territory for a month. Anna, who is also using only her first name for fear of prejudice, stated in The Globe and Mail, “If something goes wrong with the pregnancy and I’m bleeding, no one will save me in a war-torn city because doctors aren’t there, hospitals are occupied by soldiers, and you can’t go to a military hospital, because it could be bombed.” Anna was eventually able to leave and traveled via convoy with her husband and 3-year-old to Kyiv to the surrogacy clinic for safety. She went on to tell The Globe and Mail that talking to her intended parent couple from Argentina helped comfort her during her frightening and exhausting journey, and she promised them she would take care of the baby if the war prevented them from retrieving their infant right away.

Surrogacy Agencies Provide Wartime Infant Care

Many of the surrogates have also given birth during these past eight months.  As a result, some of the surrogacy agencies have expanded their role of protecting surrogates during the war into the additional role of newborn caretaker. Svitlana Burkovska, an owner of a small agency in Ukraine, told The Times that she took care of two stranded surrogate babies at the beginning of the war, even sheltering them in a basement for a time. She eventually ended up with seven newborns in her care, while her own children helped her care for the children until their parents were allowed into Ukraine to retrieve them.

With the war and COVID restrictions still in place in other countries, intended parents have endured traveling delays to get into Ukraine. Adding to the complexity of taking home their child, both intended parents must be present to register for their child’s birth certificate and to establish the child's nationality in their home country, as we reported in February. After what must have been several agonizing and frightening months, most intended parents were able to pick up their children and take them home.

Julia Osiyevska, director and owner of New Hope agency in Kyiv, tells The Globe and Mail that the process for parents leaving Ukraine with their baby used to require an in-person appointment at an embassy, but now, because of the war and the international diplomacy efforts of many countries borrowing from the diplomacy lessons learned during COVID, embassies are issuing emergency travel documents allowing foreign intended parents to leave the country relatively quickly with their children.

These heartwarming, inspiring, and gut-wrenching stories of the courage and determination of surrogates, intended parents, agencies, international family law attorneys, and diplomats remind us that it truly takes a village of dedicated people to help families through the process of surrogacy.  The war in Ukraine highlights the dangers of seeking surrogacy in foreign countries facing the possibility of war and political instability and the importance of seeking jurisdictions with clear laws and regulations governing the rights and obligations of all parties involved. This demonstrates the importance of careful research, and of consulting with medical and legal professionals who can provide expert advice on surrogacy and the best way to protect your family before moving forward with surrogacy.

Rich Vaughn

Attorney Rich Vaughn is founder and principal of International Fertility Law Group, one of the world’s largest and best-known law firms focused exclusively on assisted reproductive technology, or ART, including in vitro fertilization (IVF), surrogacy, sperm donation or egg donation. Rich is co-author of the book “Developing A Successful Assisted Reproduction Technology Law Practice,” American Bar Association Publishing, 2017.

Peiya Wang
Paralegal (律师助理)

Peiya Wang joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2015, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases and provides translation services for many of IFLG’s international clients. Peiya moved to the United States in 2012 to attend Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, receiving a Master of Science degree in Global Studies and International Affairs in 2014. Peiya moved to Los Angeles in 2015, received her paralegal certification from UCLA Extension, and obtained her second Master of Science degree in Legal Studies from Loyola Law School. Peiya relocated back to her hometown, Beijing, China in 2019 and works from IFLG’s Beijing office. When away from the office, Peiya is a dragon boat paddler and a ballroom dancer, where she favors Rumbas and Cha-chas. She is fluent in Mandarin and English.

Luis Sosa

Luis R. Sosa joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2016, where he enjoys pursuing his passion for family and reproductive law. While working toward his bachelor’s degree at Florida International University which he received in 2013, Luis worked as a paralegal and legal assistant for family law litigation firms in Miami and Washington, D.C. As a paralegal and case manager for IFLG, Luis, who is bilingual in English and Spanish, manages surrogacy, egg donation and other reproductive law cases. Luis has worked for IFLG in both Los Angeles as well as San Francisco, and is currently based in Dallas, Texas. In addition to spending time with husband Randy and dog Marty, Luis enjoys being outdoors and appreciating the arts.

Toni Hughes

After receiving her B.S. in Business Management, Toni joined IFLG to pursue her dream of working in the legal field. As a Paralegal with over 10 years of experience in the assisted reproduction technology field, Toni is our Managing Paralegal, responsible for training and managing our paralegal staff. From drafting legal documents to assisting our clients with post-birth matters, Toni embraces the challenge of learning something new in this field each day. Besides spending time with her son, Jordan, Toni enjoys exploring new things, cooking, spending time with family and friends, and serving as a Youth Advisor for “Next Generation.”


Kim has over 30 years of experience in the legal field and has worked exclusively in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 1999. Kim is a senior case manager responsible for managing parental establishment cases and interacting with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorneys across the country. With three children of her own, Kim understands the importance of family and finds working in this area of law a rewarding experience.

Rich Vaughn

Attorney Rich Vaughn combined his personal passion as a father of twin boys born via assisted reproductive technology (ART) with more than 20 years of experience in business and technology law to build International Fertility Law Group. Today IFLG is one of the most successful and best-known law firms in the world focused exclusively on fertility law, helping thousands of intended parents through empathetic listening, compassionate guidance, and unmatched legal expertise. As an advocate for reproductive freedom, Rich also contributes his knowledge and time to improving the understanding and practice of ART law, most recently as a founder of and speaker at the first Cambridge University International Surrogacy Symposium held in June 2019, as immediate past chair of the American Bar Association ART Committee, and as a popular presenter to law schools, faculty and advocacy organizations all over the world.

Elizabeth Tamayo

Elizabeth received her Bachelors of Science degree in Criminal Justice from California State University of Los Angeles. Shortly after graduating, she continued her education at the University of California, Los Angeles where she obtained her Paralegal certificate. Elizabeth is fluent in Spanish and has been in the legal field since 2009. She is excited to be a part of the IFLG Team helping families realize their dreams.

Sunny Chien

Sunny joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2017, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s international clients. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from California State University of Los Angeles, where she graduated cum laude. Sunny is bilingual in English and Mandarin and has extensive experience as a legal assistant and paralegal at Los Angeles-area law firms. She is excited to be part of the IFLG team. In her spare time, Sunny enjoys spending time with her family and their dog, going to the beach, cooking, and being outdoors.

Los Angeles

5757 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 645

Los Angeles, CA 90036

Phone:  +1 323 331 9343

Email:  info@iflg.net

Website:  www.iflg.net

New York

501 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1900

New York, NY 10017

Phone:  +1 844 400 2016

Email:  info@iflg.net

Website:  www.iflg.net

Molly O'Brien

Fertility law attorney Molly O’Brien began working in the field of assisted reproduction technology (ART) in 2005, at an egg donation agency and a surrogacy agency where she became familiar with all aspects of in-vitro fertilization, egg donation and the financial aspects of surrogacy. Since becoming an attorney in 2011, Molly has drafted and negotiated surrogacy, egg donation, sperm donation embryo donation agreements for hundreds of her clients all over the world.

Phoebe Sadler

Fertility law attorney Phoebe Sadler has a background in family law and has been practicing exclusively in the area of assisted reproduction technology (ART) law since 2018.

Rubina Aslanyan

Rubina has an extensive background in the legal field as a paralegal in Family Law and has worked in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 2012. Her area of focus is in managing and assisting clients with surrogacy, egg donation, and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s domestic and international clients. During her spare time, Rubina enjoys spending time with her family and dog Bella, traveling and cooking.

Alexander Espinoza
Legal Assistant

Alexander joined IFLG as a legal assistant in 2019, where he manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases. Alex is bilingual in English and Spanish and has been in the legal field for 23 years. Alex is excited to join the IFLG team and pursuing his will to help others in the reproductive law process. In his spare time he loves spending time with his family and friends, being outdoors, road trips, loves music and dancing.

Cara Stecker
Senior Paralegal

After receiving her paralegal certificate in 2005, Cara began working in assisted reproductive law. During the fifteen years Cara has worked in this field, she has gained a wide range of experience and knowledge that she uses to help better assist clients and those involved in the assisted reproductive journey. Cara’s primary roles involve managing parental establishment matters and coordination with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorney network, drafting contracts and parental establishment court documents and providing support to other team members. Cara finds great joy in being a small part of a team of caring people who help others achieve their dream of having a family. In her spare time, Cara enjoys spending time with her husband and three children, watching her children play the sports they love, and she enjoys, running, cycling and exploring the outdoors in the sun.

Stephanie Kimble

Stephanie received her BS in History and Political Thought from Concordia University Irvine in 2015 and her Paralegal Certificate from University of San Diego later that same year. She has been working as a Paralegal since 2016 in Family and Reproductive Law. She is excited to be part of International Fertility Law Group working on managing Surrogacy, Egg donation and Parental Establishment Cases.

Trish Pittman
Assistant Financial Coordinator

With more than 20 years of experience in the field of accounting, Trish joined the IFLG team in 2019 as Assistant Financial Coordinator. Her client-facing focus at IFLG is to assist with all client trust accounting. Trish is the mother of two daughters and enjoys spending time teaching and learning new things from them. In her free time, she loves long walks in the park and reading suspense and mystery novels.

Katie Deaquino
Senior Paralegal

Katie is a Senior Paralegal with IFLG and has dedicated over sixteen years to the areas of surrogacy and reproductive law. She received her Paralegal Certificate from Coastline Community College and has worked with some of the top law firms in the assisted reproduction community. Katie is also a commissioned Notary Public. With IFLG, Katie manages Surrogacy, Egg Donation, and Parental Establishment cases and provides support to other IFLG team members. Katie truly enjoys helping others build their families through assisted reproduction and is thankful she has had the rewarding experience of assisting IFLG clients. Katie often spends her free time with her Husband, four young children and her bulldog “Bella”.

Elsa Jimenez
Legal Assistant

Elsa joined IFLG as a Legal Assistant in 2019, bringing more than 35 years of experience working in the legal profession (concentrating in tort and litigation matters). At IFLG she assists surrogates with their surrogacy and parental matters. The oldest of five siblings, born and raised in East Los Angeles to Mexican immigrant parents, Elsa loves “seeing the beauty of families forming” through assisted reproductive technology. She and her husband Carlos have four children and one grandson. Elsa enjoys jazz and ’80s music, being outdoors in nature, collecting teacups and tea pots, and spending time with her close-knit family.