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A gap in the legislation Russia’s healthcare watchdog cracks down on private clinics for providing surrogacy services to single men from abroad

Source: RBC
Philippe Lopez / AFP / Scanpix / LETA

Russia’s federal healthcare watchdog (Roszdravnadzor) has accused three private clinics in Moscow of providing assisted reproductive technology (ART) services to single men from other countries. Though this isn’t prohibited by law in Russia, it isn’t explicitly allowed either. Nevertheless, one clinic is now facing charges for administrative violations. In addition, these cases have both the Russian Health Ministry and the State Duma’s lawmakers considering an overhaul of the country’s surrogacy regulations.

At the request of State Duma lawmaker Nikolai Zemtsov (from the ruling party, United Russia), the Moscow branch of Roszdravnadzor has issued a statement confirming that it uncovered three major private clinics in the Russian capital that provided ART services to single men from other countries without medical justification. This was reported by RBC on Thursday, December 10. The politician confirmed the authenticity of the document.

The complaints were lodged against European Medical Center, the clinic K+31 Petrovskie Vorota, and the Next Generation Clinic in Moscow. As RBC notes, former employees of the latter two clinics were previously considered suspects in a criminal case for child trafficking, which was also launched in connection with surrogacy services provided to foreign nationals. 

The criminal case was opened in January 2020 after four babies were found in an apartment in the Odintsovsky District on the outskirts of Moscow. One of the children had died from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). State investigators claimed that surrogate mothers gave birth to the children for foreign citizens. In total, the criminal case concerns 11 births resulting in 14 children for families from Thailand and the Philippines. Eight doctors were arrested in connection with the case, on suspicion of violating the laws governing the field of assisted reproductive technology between 2014 and 2020. 

Roszrvnadzor’s accusations rested on the fact that all three clinics provided ART services to single men from other countries, though Russian law doesn’t contain provisions for the use of ART by single men (in other words, it’s neither legally allowed nor prohibited). According to Roszdravnadzor, the Next Generation Clinic provided services without medical justification on seven different occasions; in some cases the foreign national didn’t visit the clinic in person. The authorities drew up administrative charges against the clinic and its director for grossly violating license requirements, the document says.

The department identified similar violations at the two other clinics, accusing them of providing ART services involving surrogate mothers, as well. According to Roszdravnadzor, European Medical Center provided ART services to single men 24 times, including two clients who were HIV positive. And the clinic K+31 Petrovskie Vorota provided ART services to 19 single men, including three cases where doctors used both eggs and sperm from donors, in combination with surrogate mothers. As noted by RBC, in these three cases the doctors didn’t collect any biological materials from the clients. K+31 Petrovskie Vorota also rendered services to one man because he lacked a sexual partner — according to lawyers, this is only grounds for providing ART services to single women.

Andrey Yanovsky, the general director of European Medical Center, told RBC that in his opinion, Roszdravnadzor didn’t have make significant comments on the clinic’s work.

It’s not right for me to comment on [Roszdravnadzor] documents, but the law needs to be interpreted simply — if it's not written [in the law] that men can’t [use ART services], it follows, as lawyers say, that they can. But I’m not a lawyer. This is obviously a gap that needs to be discussed and addressed.

The clinic K+31 Petrovskie Vorota maintains that Roszdravnadzor carried out the audit due to the existing criminal investigation into child trafficking; one of the defendants in the case used to work at the clinic. K+31 Petrovskie Vorota also claims that it has fulfilled Roszdravnadzor’s order on eliminating violations. The Next Generation Clinic declined to give a comment.

During a Civic Chamber meeting on December 8, the director of the Russian Health Ministry’s department of child healthcare and delivery services, Elena Baybarina, said that the ministry considers it prudent to prohibit private clinics from providing surrogacy services and limit these services to public hospitals. Baybarina also said that she considers a ban on advertising surrogacy a possibility. 

On December 10, the Russian State Duma’s Deputy Chairman Pyotr Tolstoy announced that lawmakers plan to develop a bill prohibiting the transfer of children from surrogate mothers to foreign families. Back in September, however, the Russian Health Ministry stated that it doesn’t oppose access to surrogacy for foreign nationals. “Both Russian citizens and citizens of other countries can act as clients and surrogate mothers,” the ministry told RBC. 

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Story by Alexander Baklanov

Translation by Eilish Hart 

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