Gay men should be allowed to use a surrogate to have children, an Israeli public health committee recommends. It also suggests single women should be permitted to use a surrogate to conceive and favours non-anonymous sperm donation.
'The rationale behind the limiting of use of surrogates by men was the fear of a major growth in the number of women forced to become surrogate mothers as a way to mitigate financial woes', explained committee chairman Professor Shlomo Mor-Yosef of the Israel National Institute for Health Policy Research and director general of the National Insurance Institute of Israel.
'We didn't want the competition over this 'limited resource', surrogate mothers, to become too economically aggressive, leading to a substantial rise in the price of the process', he added.
The public commission for the evaluation of fertility and childbirth, consisting of experts from a range of fields, was set up two years ago to investigate Israel's fertility and birth policies. It conducted 22 meetings in over 36 months, which included members of the public. It submitted its final report to the director general of the Ministry of Health last month.
Israeli news source, Ynetnews, said senior officials in the health ministry had acknowledged that allowing homosexuals to access surrogacy was a delicate issue and that deputy health minister Yaakov Litzman had been unwilling to take up the subject.
'They prefer not to take personal ministerial responsibility in areas that violate the Haredi way of life and Jewish law, but don't want to determine how others lead their lives', Ynetnews quoted an unnamed Haredi source as saying. The final decision on whether to implement the recommendations will be made by the Ministry of Health.
Paying surrogates is permitted in Israel and while some members of the committee suggested only 'altruistic' unpaid surrogacy should be allowed, this was not recommended in the final report.
'The committee didn't accept this position because during the 15 years in which surrogate childbearing has taken place in Israel, no problems requiring the practice be stopped had arisen', said Professor Mor-Yosef.
As well as permitting married women to act as surrogates (previously, only single and divorced women could be surrogates), the committee recommended that family members also be allowed to act as a surrogate for another relative - but not daughters, grandmothers, or grandchildren. The report also recommended that children conceived with donated gametes should be allowed to learn their donor's identity at the age of 18.
Meanwhile in Australia, two men have been declared the legal parents of a baby conceived via a surrogate by the New South Wales Supreme Court.
In giving what is believed to be the first ruling under the Surrogacy Act in which in the intended parents are a same sex couple, Justice Paul Brereton said he was satisfied that granting the parentage order would be in the 'best interests of the child'. Christian lobby groups called the decision a 'gross abuse' of the child's rights.