Poles hired as surrogate mums in illegal trade

Holland/ health fears for 'adopted' children
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The Independent Online
DUTCH police have begun an international investigation following allegations that young Polish women are being lured to Holland, Belgium and Germany to act as surrogate mothers for childless couples.

According to police in the eastern Dutch town of Adeldoorn, the women are recruited through advertisements in Polish newspapers which promise "discretion" and "good fees" in return for their services as surrogate mothers. Fees are believed to be as high as 35,000 guilders (about pounds 14,000), the equivalent of around two years' salary for most Poles.

Applicants are told to contact an agent in the Polish harbour city of Szczecin who arranges for the women to undergo medical tests before organising their journey to the clients' homes.

The operation was first revealed by two Dutch journalists who went to Poland to investigate reports that a 68-year-old Dutchman, Melle Kuipers, was behind an illegal racket involving Polish women.

They found that at least 12 Polish women - most of them under 25 - had been brought to Holland as "au pairs". The women lived with a couple who wanted children, usually sleeping with the man to become pregnant, although in some cases it is believed that artificial insemination was used. Once the baby was born, the biological mother was expected to return to Poland, leaving the baby with her hosts.

The police have confirmed that documents from Kuipers' home, a caravan in the rural village of Uddel, about 80 kilometres east of Utrecht, have been seized. Surrogate motherhood for commercial gain was banned in the Netherlands two years ago and carries a prison sentence of up to one year. No one has yet been prosecuted under the new legislation.

Kuipers says he is not a criminal, but a good Samaritan: "I didn't know it was illegal. The people who approached me were genuinely desperate so I thought, why shouldn't I help them? After all, everyone gets something from the deal."

Kuipers, himself married to a Pole, is believed to have made around a thousand guilders per transaction. He claims he consulted "people who should have known" before embarking on the enterprise but could not recall who these were.

Police spokesman Peter Dillen was outspoken in his condemnation of surrogate motherhood: "The emotional, social and psychological implications are tremendous. You see the sort of problems that arise when people try to find their real parents, which is bound to happen sooner or later. I've seen it myself with a colleague who found his real mother after a search of 30 years. These people suffer real trauma. I don't think people realise the dreadful consequences when they start something like this.

"Then there are the health problems. What happens if a baby is born handicapped or has Aids? Or the (biological) mother suffers depression?

"The idea of medical guarantees from countries such as Poland are no security whatsoever. We're talking about ethical and human problems of great proportions which will be with us for a long, long time.

"This current case is difficult because at the moment no one involved seems unhappy with the deal.

"Nevertheless, we have established the identity of a number of couples involved in Holland, Belgium and Germany. But it's unlikely that the babies will be taken away from them.''

Dillen expects the police inquiry into the Kuipers' case to be completed in a couple of months. This will then go to the public prosecution office, which will have to decide whether to start judicial proceedings.

A spokesman for the public prosecutor's office said Kuipers could be tried for his role in organising surrogate mothers for commercial gain, which carries a maximum one-year custodial sentence, or for trafficking in women, which could lead to a five year-jail term.

The "adoptive" parents are not covered by the law and the surrogate mother would only be liable to prosecution if she became pregnant for clients on a regular professional basis.

Polish police have also begun an inquiry into the affair.