Several dozen surrogate babies born, or about to be born, in Thailand — through the arrangements of Israeli couples — are unable to come to Israel because the Interior Ministry has not granted Israeli citizenship to the infants, according to an advocacy group formed around the issue.
There are currently some 65 babies stuck in Thailand that were conceived by homosexual Israeli couples, according to the group “Help Us Bring the Babies Home.” The group formed a Facebook page last week that has already garnered some 14,000 “Likes” and the support of Gal Uchovsky, a prominent Tel Aviv LGBTQ activist and journalist.
The group has focused its attention on Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar, and is planning multiple demonstrations outside his Tel Aviv home this week, culminating Thursday in a large rally organized with the help of various LGBTQ organizations.
According to the group, the affected parents have followed all the legal and bureaucratic procedures required of them from the Thai authorities. “Many couples, from all over the world, perform a similar procedure in Thailand, and return to their home country with no problem,” the group said. It also noted that some of the Israeli parents have had to extend their visa in Thailand while dealing with the issue and that some of the newborns were without proper health care and insurance.
Some 20 babies have been born to Israeli couples through surrogacy in Thailand in recent weeks, and some 40 are due to be born shortly, according to Channel 2. On Sunday, the channel reported that the Interior Ministry has refused to grant citizenship to the babies due to a conflict with Thai law, which automatically grants citizenship to the babies according to the birth mother.
According to a statement from the ministry issued to Channel 2, the issue is being jointly addressed with Thai authorities by the interior, justice and foreign ministries.
“According to Thai law, the babies are Thai citizens,” the statement said. “The position of the authorities in Thailand, which was given to Israel in an official notice, is that mothers in Thailand who give birth to babies have full parental rights over those children, including custody.”
The Foreign Ministry issued a notice and a travel warning to that effect at the end of December 2013, the statement said.
However, MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), himself a member of the gay community, who plans to raise the issue in the Knesset, said Sunday that there is “no reason” for the Israeli surrogate babies to be denied entry into Israel, when “citizens from many other countries complete the processes of surrogacy in Thailand without any problem.”
The surrogacy procedure is extremely expensive and, according to Horowitz, many families have been put in “dire” financial straits by the situation and the delay.
Thailand permits surrogacy but has no explicit laws on the matter. However, in December, the Thai authorities began to formulate an official policy on surrogacy by foreigners, which led to the Foreign Ministry warning, according to a Haaretz report from last week.
Israel does not permit homosexual couples to initiate the surrogacy procedure in the country, forcing many who wish to have children to seek a solution abroad.
According to the website New Life in Thailand — one of the many companies that provide Thai surrogacy services for foreigners — both the Thai birth mother and the foreign father (sperm donor) are registered as the parents, and then a legal procedure is conducted whereby the mother gives up her rights to the child. The father must then acquire citizenship for the baby, which, in the case of Israel, requires a genetic test to prove paternity.
In December, Health Ministry Yael German announced that she intends to implement a 2010 panel recommendation to open up the surrogacy procedure to Israeli homosexual couples.
Israel suffers from a shortage of surrogate mothers. According to a 2013 report on the news site Walla, from 2007 to 2012, 313 Israelis found surrogate mothers abroad, compared to only 228 in Israel. The imbalance has become even worse in recent years; in 2012, 126 went through the process abroad, while only 41 did so in Israel.
Lazar Berman contributed to this report.