Netanyahu denies about-face on surrogacy rights for gay men, as anger grows

Netanyahu denies about-face on surrogacy rights for gay men, as anger grows

After voting against measure, reportedly due to ultra-Orthodox pressure, PM says he'll support bill backing change in next Knesset session; hundreds rally in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem

Members of the LGBT community demonstrate   in Tel Aviv against a Knesset legislation that denies surrogacy rights for same-sex couples on July 18, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Members of the LGBT community demonstrate in Tel Aviv against a Knesset legislation that denies surrogacy rights for same-sex couples on July 18, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday denied having changed his position on surrogate parenthood for same-sex couples, amid mounting criticism over his vote against a proposal to extend the right to gay men.

Earlier in the day, the prime minister dashed to the Knesset for the express purpose of voting against the clause, part of a broader surrogacy bill, two days after publishing a video explaining why he supports the idea.

The surrogacy bill — which extends eligibility to single women — passed the Knesset vote as expected, but without the clause allowing surrogacy for men. The clause had been proposed by openly gay MK Amir Ohana, a member of Netanyahu’s own Likud party.

“Contrary to what was reported, I am entirely consistent on the issue of surrogacy,” said Netanyahu in a statement. “I support surrogacy for both mothers and fathers.”

“Today, we voted for the bill for mothers. I told MK Ohana in advance that I would not support his revision, as he has submitted to this bill, since it will topple this bill and then mothers would not receive surrogacy [rights],” Netanyahu said.

He urged Ohana to submit a separate bill legalizing surrogacy for gay couples and pledged to support it.

The statement was released as hundreds of people gathered in downtown Tel Aviv and outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem on Wednesday evening to protest the knocked down clause.

Members of the LGBT community and supporters participate in a demonstration against a Knesset bill amendment denying surrogacy for same-sex couples, outside Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem on July 18, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The amended surrogacy law extends eligibility for the procedure to single women, but denies same-sex couples the right to have children via 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 increases the number of children per family unit to five.

In addition, the age limit for surrogate mothers has been raised from 38 to 39, and a surrogate will now be able to give birth five times (including her own children) instead of four as the law currently mandates.

In opposing the clause, Netanyahu on Wednesday was acting on the demands of the ultra-Orthodox parties, which oppose giving gay men the right to father children through surrogacy, Channel 10 news reported. In return, the ultra-Orthodox parties reportedly agreed to support the Jewish nation-state bill, another controversial piece of legislation, which is up for its final votes Wednesday night.

MKs Yoel Hasson and Stav Shaffir of the opposition Zionist Union faction were removed from the plenum hall for raucously booing the prime minister during the vote.

Committee chairman Amir Ohana leads the joint Knesset and Constitution Committee meeting discussing the proposed National Law, at the Knesset, on July 10, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

MK Yair Lapid, leader of the opposition Yesh Atid party, called Netanyahu a “liar.”

“Two day ago during a Likud faction meeting Netanyahu said that he supports a change in the bill to enable LGBT people to become parents,” he said in a statement. “On the same day, he posted a video in which he repeated — both in words and in writing — his commitment to support the change… I have never said this before about a prime minister of Israel, but I have no choice: liar.”

Netanyahu was compelled to participate in the vote due to the government’s narrow majority in parliament and the intention of MK Merav Ben-Ari, of the coalition Kulanu party, to vote in favor of the clause allowing gay couples to use a surrogate.

Sources close to Netanyahu said that the prime minister will support legislating an extension of surrogacy to gay men in the next parliament session.

Ohana and Ben-Ari announced they had submitted an updated bill that will be brought up immediately with the opening of the next session in the fall, and which will be supported by Netanyahu’s Likud party and Kulanu.

“In light of the expected approval tonight of the Health Ministry’s surrogacy law, and following the positive things the prime minister said about the matter, we formulated and submitted a bill that will edit a number of changes in the surrogacy law,” the lawmakers said in a statement. “We will sign up for the law a long list of MKs from the coalition and the opposition — and act vigorously to advance it.”

On Monday, in a Hebrew-language video posted to his Facebook page, Netanyahu explained why he supported the extension of the surrogacy law to single men, effectively allowing gay couples to have children via surrogacy.

“Single mothers have the right to the surrogacy process, but single fathers don’t have that right,” Netanyahu said. “It simply isn’t fair. It needs to be corrected. Therefore, I notified [Ohana] today during the Likud faction meeting that I will support the bill he is proposing.”

ראש הממשלה נתניהו: תומך בתיקון לחוק הפונדקאות

ח״כ Amir Ohana – אמיר אוחנה דיבר איתי לא פעם על חוק הפונדקאות. הוא העלה נקודה מאוד פשוטה: לאמהות יחידניות יש זכות לתהליך פונדקאות, אבל לאבות יחידנים אין זכות כזאת. זה פשוט לא הוגן וצריך לתקן את זה. לכן הודעתי לו היום בישיבת סיעת הליכוד שאני אתמוך בתיקון החוק שהוא יגיש.

Posted by ‎Benjamin Netanyahu – בנימין נתניהו‎ on Monday, 16 July 2018

A surrogacy agreement involves a woman who is willing to carry a pregnancy for another individual or couple, who will then become the child’s legal parent or parents after birth.

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