Susanna tells us she is from Bulgaria but moved to Crete 15 years ago together with her sister. She also says that she is married. "My husband has no problem with me doing this," she says. When we ask how contact was established between her and the client parents, Voshol once again jumps in. The clinic introduced Susanna to the German couple, she says, and then they signed the contract. It is an important detail, because clinics in Greece are not legally allowed to act as intermediaries between client parents and surrogate mothers. But nobody seems particularly concerned about keeping up appearances.
Ultimately, many questions are left unanswered in our discussion with Susanna and Voshol. What happens, for instance, if Susanna has a miscarriage? Would she get any money at all in such a situation? Susanna is repeatedly interrupted by Voshol, and by Katerina Dimotaki, who occasionally jumps in. At some point, Voshol finally asks: "Is that enough?" We shake hands with Susanna, she nods to us and leaves the office.
The biggest hurdle facing the clinics is finding enough women willing to be surrogate mothers. In 2017, the Hellenic Republic National Bioethics Commission published a study for which it had examined hundreds of surrogacy rulings issued by an Athens court. It found that more than 60 percent of surrogate mothers are not citizens of Greece. The study noted that most of them are from Bulgaria, Poland, Georgia, Albania and Romania: countries in Eastern Europe where people are even poorer than the Greek population, despite almost a decade of economic crisis. It is often said that women from Roma families are recruited as surrogate mothers. We were unable to confirm Susanna's family origins with certainty, but her accent seemed to indicate that she may also have such a background.
How does the clinic on Crete find its surrogate mothers? In a preliminary telephone conversation, we were told that they sometimes work together with the same women for several pregnancies. There are, we were told, surrogate mothers who have carried babies to term for many different client parents. In Chania, Voshol tells us "they are frequently women who have lived on Crete for a long time. Many live in Greek families where they take care of the elderly." And they are happy for the opportunity, Voshol continues, to exchange such a tough job for a pregnancy.
Katerina Dimotaki rejoins our discussion as we begin talking about contractual elements and payment. How much money do surrogate mothers receive for their service? "Around 20,000 euros," Dimotaki answers straightforwardly. About twice what Greek law allows.
Dimotaki pulls out a list of all the costs and briefly explains a couple of the items. This initial consultation, for example, costs 100 euros. The total cost, she finally says, "is between 60,000 and 70,000 euros" – depending on how complicated the artificial insemination procedure proves to be and how many attempts are needed. It's not a lot by international standards, especially when you consider the health risks associated with pregnancy. Indeed, that is the main argument against the commercialization of surrogate motherhood.
An additional consideration is the fact that surrogate mothers generally give birth via Cesarean-section. After all, the client parents have to be present to receive their baby. But a C-section is an operation, a surgical intervention into a person's physical integrity. How badly must a woman need the money if she is prepared to submit to such a thing?