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Israel: Protests and a hunger strike over surrogate babies stuck in Thailand

27 January 2014
Appeared in BioNews 739

Supporters of the parents of 65 babies born to surrogate mothers in Thailand have gathered outside the home of Israeli interior minister Gideon Sa'ar to protest the Israeli Government's refusal to accord citizenship to the children.

One of the parents, Rubi Israeli Halbreich, who had twins with his partner, Dotan, through a surrogate mother in Thailand, began a hunger strike. Halbreich's son is suffering from a head injury which doctors in Thailand have so far been unable to diagnose.

The Government attributes its refusal to accord citizenship to Thailand's law on surrogacy, under which a child born to a Thai mother is automatically granted Thai citizenship. There are currently no provisions in place to regulate the treatment of children born to surrogate mothers in Thailand.

Sa'ar posted an expression of empathy for the situation of the parents on his Facebook page. However, he also reiterated that there continues to be a conflict between Thai and Israeli law about the treatment of infants born to surrogates.

Other members of the Israeli Government, including gay Knesset member Nitzan Horowitz, disagree with the Government's justification of the refusals. Ninety percent of those affected are same-sex couples who argue that the Government's actions seek to unfairly prejudice them.

'The mothers knew from the beginning what they're getting into', said Horowitz's spokesman. 'They signed a contract. They gave up any parental rights to the children. There shouldn't be any problem. Israel made up a problem'.

The Israeli Government has been in talks with Thai officials about the treatment of these infants. A breakthrough was made when the Israeli Foreign Ministry approved a draft agreement submitted by one of the Israeli couples involved, in which the Thai woman who carried the child for them agreed to allow for the child's permanent removal from Thailand.

It is expected that Israeli passports will be issued in the next few days, after the Government of Thailand issues its approval. This deal will allow parents to bring back their children from Thailand.

However, Halbreich, the parent on hunger strike, has said that he will not end his protest until he receives an official guarantee that his child will be granted Israeli citizenship. He alleges that the Israeli consulate in Thailand has not taken steps to progress the case.

In response, spokesman Yigal Palmor said: 'The legal branch of the Foreign Ministry informed the lawyer representing one of the couples that the document presented to us in which the surrogate mother agrees to let the child leave Thailand permanently meets our requirements'. He added that the lawyer had been informed that once the document has been translated and verified, the parents could get a travel document from the consulate.

Gil Ovadia Leibowitz, a lawyer representing some of the parents, also urges caution. 'It's a wonderful achievement; the parents will leave in a matter of days... this arrangement doesn't cut off the surrogate mother's rights regarding her child according to Thai law and does not remove her name from the birth certificate', he said.

The ongoing complexity surrounding the situation has led to the Israeli Government issuing an instruction to avoid surrogacy procedures in Thailand. It has also said that as of 30 November 2014, it will no longer assist couples who have undertaken such procedures.

65 surrogate babies born to Israeli gay couples stuck in Thailand
Times of Israel |  19 January 2014
65 surrogate babies of Israeli gay couples stranded in Thailand
Gay Star News |  20 January 2014
Deal taking shape in Thai-Israeli surrogacy crisis
Haaretz |  23 January 2014
Israeli officials fault gay couples in Thailand surrogacy saga
Times of Israel |  21 January 2014
Parent of stranded surrogate children goes on hunger strike
Times of Israel |  22 January 2014
Protesters gather outside Sa'ar's home to demand Israeli surrogacy in Thailand be recognized
The Jerusalem Post |  22 January 2014
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