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Children by surrogacy to be allowed for same-sex couples, single men from next week

Health Minister Horowitz stresses transgender people will be included in regulation change in wake of last year’s High Court ruling; rights groups welcome ‘historic day’

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, right, and ministry director-general Nachman Ash, hold a press conference on equality for surrogacy, Tel Aviv January 4, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/FLASH90)
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, right, and ministry director-general Nachman Ash, hold a press conference on equality for surrogacy, Tel Aviv January 4, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/FLASH90)

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz announced Tuesday that starting next week, same-sex couples, single men and transgender people will be able parent children through surrogacy, an option that was previously banned for them in Israel.

The new rules, which come into effect January 11, were laid down in a directive formed by the Health Ministry director-general in line with a High Court of Justice ruling on the matter. They were presented in a press briefing by the minister.

They bring to an end a legal battle that has gone on for more than 11 years, since gay couple Etai Pinkas Arad and Yoav Arad Pinkas filed a petition on the matter with Israel’s top court in 2010.

Horowitz said the move will enable “future fathers, gay couples and essentially every person in Israel equal access to surrogacy in Israel.”

“Today we put an end to injustice and discrimination. Everyone has the right to parenthood,” he said. He stressed that transgender people were also included in the relaxed rules.

Horowitz, who is the second openly gay Knesset member, said, “This is an exciting day for me, as a gay minister who is well aware of the exclusion and discrimination against us over the years. It’s my personal struggle too.”

With the development, Israel would join the “small group of countries that have ended discrimination against LGBT people to have the right to parenthood.

“We have become one of the most advanced countries in the world in this area,” he added.

Horowitz also reassured women who offer to carry babies for other couples that authorities are committed to their welfare as well, saying, “We will continue to do everything necessary in order to protect you and preserve your rights.”

Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash said that officials valued the principle of equality.

“We see great importance in making an important medical service accessible to the general population, just as we make other medical services accessible,” he said.

Itai Pinkas and Yoav Arad, a gay couple who petitioned to the Supreme Court requesting to have a baby through a surrogate mother (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
Itai Pinkas and Yoav Arad, a gay couple who petitioned to the Supreme Court requesting to have a baby through a surrogate mother (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

Arad and Pinkas, along with the nonprofit Gay Fathers group and the Tammuz surrogacy agency, welcomed the developments, saying in a statement it was “a victory and historic day.”

They said it was a “day of joy for Israeli society in general and in particular for the LGBT community, also due to the inclusion of the trans community in the amendment to the law.”

Surrogacy as a route to parenthood is currently open to heterosexual married couples and to single women who have a genetic connection to the baby. In February 2020, the High Court of Justice struck down a controversial law that blocked single men and gay couples from using surrogacy to have children, and gave the Knesset a year to pass a new law.

Last July the High Court of Justice ruled that all legislation denying surrogacy rights to same-sex couples and single men would be null and void in six months. At the time the state asked the court to make a ruling on the matter, since amending the law in line with the previous 2020 ruling was “unfeasible” in the current political situation.

Horowitz and the Meretz party he leads have made equal rights for the LGBT community a central plank of their policies in the diverse eight-party governing coalition that includes factions from the left, right and center of Israeli politics.

In August, Horowitz announced that all restrictions on blood donations from homosexual men would be lifted, a move that went into effect in October.

Also in August, Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli, who leads the center-left Labor party, made a trip to the US to greet her newborn son, whom she parented through surrogacy with her partner, comedian Lior Schleien.

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