Committee advances surrogacy for same-sex couples

Knesset bill would allow gay, lesbian and single parents-to-be to seek surrogate mothers in Israel

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Illustrative image of a pregnancy (photo credit: Shutterstock)
Illustrative image of a pregnancy (photo credit: Shutterstock)

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation authorized on Sunday a bill which would allow same-sex couples and single parents to seek surrogacy services in Israel. The ruling, which has not yet been approved by the Knesset plenum, would overturn current Israeli law, under which only heterosexual couples are permitted to pursue surrogacy within the country.

In addition the bill seeks to further extend surrogacy circles, allowing married women to also serve as surrogate mothers. The age of eligible surrogate mothers would be raised from 36 to 38. However, the bill stipulates that individuals seeking surrogacy must be under the age of 54.

Seven of the Ministerial Committee members, including Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar and Finance Minister Yair Lapid voted to approve the bill, while five opposed it, among them Interior Minister Uri Ariel and Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch.

In December, Health Ministry Yael German announced that she intended to implement a 2010 panel recommendation to open up the surrogacy procedure to Israeli homosexual couples. German told reporters that she had accepted many of the decisions of the Mor-Yosef Committee, which examined public policy options relating to fertility and childbirth.

The 2010 committee, headed by Professor Shlomo Mor-Yosef, brought together 12 experts from different fields and sought to find solutions that addressed — according to the Health Ministry — “the child’s well-being, age limitations within the framework of fertility treatment, genetic matter donations, posthumous use of genetic matter and so on.”

The bill was largely based on German’s recommendations.

Israeli restrictions on surrogacy have prompted many same-sex couples to fly abroad in order to obtain a surrogate mother, a process both costly and complicated.

The prime destination for foreign surrogacy used to be India, until last year when that country made it illegal to be a surrogate for same-sex couples. Thailand was another favorable location, but a recently introduced Thai law under which babies are automatically granted citizenship according to the citizenship of their birth mothers has complicated matters.

Eran Pnini Koren and Avi Koren, a gay Israeli couple, with their child conceived through the surrogacy procedure in Thailand. (photo credit: Facebook)
Eran Pnini Koren and Avi Koren, a gay Israeli couple, with their child conceived through the surrogacy procedure in Thailand. (photo credit: Facebook)

In January, following an incident in which several same-sex couples were temporarily stuck in Thailand with their newborn or soon-to-be-born babies, a government statement instructed Israeli homosexual couples to avoid surrogacy procedures in the Asian country, and warned that as of November 30, 2014, the Israeli government would no longer provide assistance to parents of babies born there.

Israel suffers from a shortage of surrogate mothers. Between 2007 and 2012, Walla reported, 313 Israelis found surrogate mothers abroad, compared to only 228 in Israel. The imbalance has become even more pronounced recently: In 2012, 126 people went through the process abroad, while only 41 did so in Israel.

Marissa Newman, Lazar Berman and Yoel Goldman contributed to this report

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