Widows and bereaved parents clash in Knesset over proposed law on posthumous use of sperm

Renee Ghert-Zand is the health reporter and a feature writer for The Times of Israel.

Heated arguments between widows and bereaved parents break out in the Knesset Health Committee as a proposed new law for the posthumous use of sperm reaches the final stages of preparation for its first reading in the Knesset plenum.

The bill seeks to set comprehensive guidelines for men who wish to give consent for the posthumous retrieval of their sperm and its use by their life partner or parents after death.

Currently, posthumous sperm retrieval (PSR) can be done at the request of a widow without any need for legal bureaucracy, but parents who want their dead son’s sperm to be retrieved and preserved must obtain an order from a family court. During the war, this requirement has been eliminated, at least temporarily.

There is no opposition to the bill’s stipulation that a widow should take priority in terms of deciding upon her husband’s death whether she wants to have PSR performed with the intent of her becoming pregnant with his child. The arguments today center on the fact that the bill, in its current formulation, would allow the dead man’s parents wishing to perpetuate his genetic line to step in and request PSR and immediately gain custody of the sperm should the new widow opt not to proceed.

Some present in the committee vehemently oppose the idea of a man’s parents choosing a woman with no relationship to their son to be impregnated with his sperm, and for his offspring to be raised by her. They see this as an affront to the widow who would know that her husband has a child somewhere that she did not give birth to.

Bereaved parents argue they have every right to use their son’s sperm to create a grandchild, and that the widow should not have the final say in the matter.

“It’s not up to a young widow to determine that a man will leave this world childless and not leave a [biological] legacy. Parents should have the priority here. We are the ones who birthed our son, fed him, raised him, and didn’t sleep nights,” says Irit Shahar, who has been fighting to use her fallen son Omri’s sperm for 12 years.

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