The Knesset on Wednesday rejected in its preliminary reading a bill to expand surrogacy laws to enable same-sex couples to use the procedure to have children.
Opposition MKs Itzik Shmuli (Zionist Union) and Yael German (Yesh Atid) sponsored two proposals for changes to the surrogacy law, which were voted on together by parliament as one bill.
Some 41 lawmakers voted in favor and 49 MKs voted against the proposals to expand the circle of those who can use the services of a surrogate mother to include single men and gay couples.
Four coalition MKs — Amir Ohana and Sharren Haskel of Likud, and Merav Ben-Ari and Tali Ploskov of Kulanu — voted in favor of the bill.
“I support surrogacy for the LGBT community, but up until this moment, we don’t have a majority in the coalition to pass the law,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday, referring to opposition by his ultra-Orthodox coalition partners. “When we have a majority, we’ll pass the legislation.”
Current law only allows parenting through surrogacy for heterosexual couples in which the woman can’t carry a child or for single women who are not able to bear children.
In addition to granting same-sex couples the right to use a surrogate, the bill also aimed to permit men seeking to become parents to receive egg donations from Israel or bring eggs from abroad.
Other proposed changes sought to expand the range of women who can be surrogates, while also putting in restrictions to protect their health. In addition, the bill proposed a NS 160,000 ($43,000) limit on the total payment that can made to a surrogate mother. Currently there is no limit and the surrogate mothers are paid around NIS 200,000 ($53,000) for their services.
Explanatory notes for the bill noted that due to the limitations on using surrogacy in Israel “a phenomenon developed in recent years of Israelis traveling abroad to bring children into the world using a surrogate who is a resident in a foreign country.”
That process “raises many difficulties, legal and ethical” that are not covered by existing laws, yet the country is required to grant citizenship to the newborns and recognize them as the children of the parents when they are brought to the country, the notes said.
Itzik, who is openly gay, told the plenum that same-sex couples were being denied a basic human right.
“The right to a family is a basic right,” he said. “One of the central elements of human existence and the supreme realization of human nature and the desire of a person for continuity. This natural right ranks high on the levels of human rights but for more than 20 years it has been denied to an entire community, my community. The law allows couples of only a specific type to realize their right to be parents.
“For the government, we were second class and we remain second class,” he said. “The time has come for actions, not words. The elementary demand here is for equality.”
Speaking plaintively to Netanyahu, he asked the prime minister to “look me in the eye” and tell him he does not have the right to be a father, in a country where the assassin of Yitzhak Rabin, Yigal Amir, was allowed to become a father.
Netanyahu, responding, said he did not have the votes in the coalition to approve such a right.
In July, the Knesset voted on a surrogacy bill which extended eligibility to single women, but not to men. The legislation sparked nationwide protests from the gay community and its supporters.
Netanyahu in particular drew particular condemnation at the time after he pledged to pass legislation supporting surrogacy for gay fathers but then voted against it, reportedly under pressure from ultra-Orthodox coalition partners.