The Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee on Monday amended a proposed surrogacy bill to extend eligibility for the procedure to include single women, but denied same-sex couples the right to have children via a surrogate.
As the bill stands, single women who are unable to have children for medical reasons will now be permitted to have a child through a surrogate. Until now the right has only been extended to married, heterosexual couples.
In a further change, surrogacy was previously limited to two children per family, but the new amendment will increase the number of children per family unit to five. In addition, the age limit for surrogate mothers has been raised from 38 to 39 years old, and a surrogate will now be able to give birth five times (including her own children) instead of four as the law currently stands.
Openly gay Likud MK Amir Ohana proposed an amendment to include same-sex couples in the bill, but was voted down. In an emotional exchange, he told the committee of the struggles he faced in starting his own family.
“When my husband and I wanted to raise a family, we had to travel thousands of kilometers to another country. The twins were born prematurely and we were not by their sides,” Ohana said. “I had to turn the world upside down to find a Jew, who did not know me but lived nearby, to be by their sides. I am not defying the rabbinate and going against religion, just asking for a bit of humanity.”
MK Itzik Shmuli (Zionist Union) told the committee that the discrimination denying same-sex couples the same rights was “an insult.”
“I want to be a father and I cannot be a father. To do this, I have to go to a foreign country, pay $140,000 and hope it’s all right. My life is full, but there is always a part missing that accompanies me everywhere,” Shmuli said. “We are good enough to serve the country, but not to be parents. It’s an insult I cannot describe. It is a situation that is simply discriminatory, painful, and full of insults and dishonesty. This is wrong.”
The bill was passed with a majority of 8 to 4 – those who voted in favor were MKs Eli Alaluf (Kulanu). Nava Boker (Likud), Avraham Neguise (Likud), Michael Michaeli (Shas), Yisrael Eichler (United Torah Judaism), Moti Yogev (Jewish Home), Tali Ploskov (Kulanu), Akram Hasson (Kulanu).
Four MKs voted against: Yael German (Yesh Atid), Ilan Gilon (Meretz), and Michal Biran and Itzik Shmuli of the Zionist Union.
In a sharp exchange, Biran slammed Alalouf for his backing of the bill.
“I do not understand why you’re so cowardly,” she charged. “How can you lend a hand to all the homophobia? People hate and incite against homosexuals, and you give it a hand via your inaction.”
Gay rights activist Oded Fried slammed the bill, saying, “We must stop the lie that is known as the surrogacy law. It is a law against gay families and against the basic right to start a family.”
The coalition makeup makes it difficult to pass laws advancing LGBT rights. Religious parties, which traditionally oppose such legislation, hold significant power within the coalition.
The Welfare and Social Affairs Ministry last year announced its opposition to same-sex couples adopting children in Israel because it would place an “additional burden” on the child.
But following an outcry, with thousands of Israelis taking to the streets of Tel Aviv to protest what they said was a discriminatory policy, the ministry reversed the decision less than a month later and said it was the role of the Knesset to make a final determination on the issue through legislation.