Health minister calls for expanded surrogacy access

Yael German announces she will accept recommendations of 2010 commission, including opening process to singles and gays

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Illustrative: A pregnant woman gets an ultrasound checkup.  (photo credit: Shay Levy/Flash90)
Illustrative: A pregnant woman gets an ultrasound checkup. (photo credit: Shay Levy/Flash90)

Israel’s health minister announced Wednesday that she will put forth legislation opening up the opportunity to use surrogate mothers for singles and to homosexual couples.

At a press conference announcing her decision, Yael German told reporters that she had accepted many of the decisions of the Mor-Yosef Committee, tasked in 2010 with examining public policy options relating to fertility and childbirth.

Currently single parents-to-be must go abroad to obtain a surrogate parent, regardless of sexual orientation.

German recommended allowing single men and women, including those in homosexual relationships, access to surrogate mothers, as long as the egg or sperm was theirs.

At the same time, German sought to expand the pool of eligible surrogate mothers. She proposed raising the maximum age for the surrogate mother from 36 to 38, and to allow married women to serve as surrogates. Currently, only widows and divorcees with at least two kids are eligible. Single women are not accepted.

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

German also proposed making it simpler for Israelis to find surrogates abroad.

German also saw the protection of the surrogate mother as a core value, and proposed creating guidelines for financial and other support throughout the whole process. She also called for a limit of three attempts at impregnating the surrogate mother.

She said she would limit couples to two children conceived through surrogacy, and singles to one.

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 committee recommends sweeping changes in the 15-year-old surrogacy law, and codification of the surrogacy process performed by Israelis abroad,” said the ministry in May 2012 after the commission released its findings recommending opening surrogacy to more Israelis.

According to the introduction of its report, the Mor-Yosef Commission based its 2012 recommendations expanding surrogacy in Jewish teachings and ethics.

“According to the Jewish understanding,” the commission wrote, “the commandment to be fruitful and multiply is an important and central commandment. Its importance is expressed, among other things, by its being first in the 613 Torah commandments, and it is mentioned several times. The purpose and goal of the commandment is that the world will be settled and human race will be continued… From here we see that fertility is a blessing.”

Still, the committee emphasized, quoting former Supreme Court president Meir Shamgar, “the right of the parents is not an absolute right. The rights of the parents are relative, limited by the rights of the child and his welfare.”

The committee also recommended ensuring that there is a genetic connection between the child and at least one of the parents who will be raising him or her.

German’s party, Yesh Atid, has been in a tussle recently with coalition partner Jewish Home over bills giving benefits to same-sex couples. Jewish Home MKs vetoed a Yesh Atid proposal to give families with two men the same child-rearing benefits that mothers are eligible for. 

This proposal might fit into that background. German’s press release itself does not state outright that same-sex couples are included in this legislation, perhaps to reduce the chances of a veto within the coalition, but by the standards she is setting forth, it is evident they could be allowed to use surrogacy to have children.

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