Ahead of Scandinavia’s first surrogacy education conference in Stockholm on 12 August, Sam Everingham looks at how Nordic citizens are using surrogacy to create families despite anti-surrogacy social policies
Twenty speakers, including parents via surrogacy, surrogacy lawyers and other professionals from Sweden, Denmark, the US, Ukraine, Canada and Greece will share their expertise at the non-profit organisation Families Through Surrogacy’s inaugural Nordic conference on August 12 in Stockholm.
This inaugural event is of great interest to local infertility organisations given the lack of reliable information available on surrogacy
In both Sweden and Finland, access to surrogacy remains unresolved. Until 2007 when it was banned, Finland allowed limited domestic surrogacy where the surrogate was a close friend. Now Finnish parliamentarians are again supportive of opening access to surrogacy domestically.
Sweden’s National Council on Medical Ethics has said altruistic surrogacy should be permitted, yet a Swedish task force recommended last year that no surrogacy be allowed in Sweden and that Swedes be blocked from international surrogacy. Yet again, most Swedish political parties have taken a stand against this recommendation. So while a parliamentary vote is planned, a ban seems unlikely to be accepted.
Despite an absence of enabling laws, citizens from Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark have been creating families via surrogacy for many years.
Research conducted by Families Through Surrogacy in 2015 investigated the ’source’ countries for international surrogacy globally. Of the 57 nationalities represented, proportionate to population size, Norway was the third largest user of surrogacy globally (after Australia and Israel). Sweden was the sixth largest user. Extrapolated to the total market, an estimated 800 Norwegians and Swedes created families via surrogacy in the three years from 2012 to 2014. Parents from Denmark and Finland were also represented, although in smaller numbers.
With surrogacy unavailable domestically, the US, India and Thailand have been popular destinations for Nordic intended parents.
A Swedish parent with young children born via Indian surrogacy talked at Families Thru Surrogacy’s first UK surrogacy conference in 2014.
But in the last few years there have been significant changes in countries allowing surrogacy. More cost-effective destinations such as India, Thailand, Cambodia and Nepal, which operated in the absence of legal protections, are now closed to foreigners.
Scandinavians are now more trusting of countries with protective legal frameworks for surrogacy such as Ukraine, Georgia, Canada and some US states.
In March this year I spent a week looking at surrogacy options in Greece, given it also now accepts foreign couples. There I met an infertile Norwegian couple – the joyful parents of newborn twins – an outcome they had never dreamed possible before researching surrogacy.
Tanya is another intended parent who will be sharing her experience of surrogacy at the upcoming conference.
She and her husband’s journey started back in 2010 in New York City when they engaged in standard IVF. Able to create only two embryos, the transfer was unsuccessful. During her second IVF cycle, Tanya was rushed into emergency surgery for a medical complication and was told to hold off on IVF for the immediate future.
By 2013 she and her husband had moved to Stockholm for a work related opportunity. Cleared by the doctors and determined to try IVF again with donor eggs, but now aged 44, Swedish clinics would not accept her. So instead they tried with various clinics in Finland and Latvia, but after another 18 months still no results. After further medical complications, doctors advised that to carry a child herself would be a high risk proposition.
They turned to surrogacy. A friend recommended a Georgian clinic as they had success with surrogacy there. Traveling to Tbilisi for egg retrieval and transfer, the first transfer was initially successful, but by week five they had lost the foetus. Two further transfers were unsuccessful.
Though devastated and disillusioned with the Georgian process, Tanya and her husband refused to give up.
Despite the higher costs, they turned to US surrogacy, given some US states had over three decades experience in this complex area. Ultimately an Oregon surrogacy agency, Surro Connections, captured their trust and helped them decide on a US IVF clinic. Now matched with a surrogate, by the time Tanya speaks at the Stockholm conference, she expects parenthood to be just around the corner.
Amidst the talks, singles and couples will be making vital decisions about how to build a family. For more information, please click here