Four babies born to gay Israeli couples through surrogacy in Thailand arrived with their parents at Ben Gurion Airport on Friday morning. The couples are part of a larger group that has been unable to bring their newborns home to Israel because of bureaucratic and legal issues.
Ten additional couples and their newborns have been stuck in Thailand for over two months, saying that Israeli officials refused to issue passports to their children, apparently in light of a recently introduced Thai law that grants citizenship based on the child’s birth mother.
Another 50 Israeli couples remain in various earlier stages of the surrogacy process in Thailand, according to Walla News.
The new Thai law passed late last year, leaving the Israeli couples who were already far along in the surrogacy process stranded. Based on the new law, a surrogate mother is granted full custody of the baby, and removing the child from Thailand could be considered kidnapping.
On Monday, the Israeli consulate in Bangkok began issuing passports to the babies of couples who had submitted a form bearing the surrogate’s name, in which she relinquished her parental rights.
The couples had claimed that before a public advocacy campaign put a spotlight on their plight earlier this month, they had been repeatedly turned away from the consulate. Some couples were reportedly turned away by consular officials, who said their hands were tied, even when they brought the surrogate mothers along with them to the meetings.
“It’s such a great feeling to be here in Israel after one journey, and to begin with the real journey of parenthood,” Omri Lanchet-Shapir, one of the new parents who arrived Friday, told reporters.
The young families were greeted by loved ones, including grandparents who got to meet their grandchildren for the first time.
“I’ve waited so long for this moment,” said Edna Lanchet, holding her grandson, Shai. “This was a difficult period, and we only wished for this moment. I hope that other no parent or grandparents have to go through this.”
On Thursday, the Health Ministry published a memorandum of law which, if approved, should pave the way for gay couples to take advantage of the surrogacy process in Israel.
The memorandum calls for surrogacy to be extended to single individuals. Until now, surrogacy has only been available to qualifying straight couples. The memorandum, if approved, would also reduce restrictions on who can serve as a surrogate in Israel.