Israeli surrogacy crisis moves to resolution while Health Ministry supports law change for gay couples
Israel has issued its first passport to a baby born to a Thai surrogate, after the intended parents protested against the Government's refusal to grant the child Israeli citizenship.
The gesture, which is likely to be the first of many such passports, seeks to resolve the growing surrogacy crisis that had last week culminated in organised protests at the Israeli Government's inability to respond to stringent Thai laws that ultimately left 65 surrogate-born children and their parents stranded in Thailand (reported in BioNews 739).
Thai laws stipulate that children born of surrogates are to be classified as citizens of Thailand and full parental rights are necessarily awarded to the surrogate mother of the child.
Nissim Ben Sheetrit at the Israeli Foreign Ministry announced: 'Despite the complex political situation in Thailand, we reached an agreement in which the mother can come to the Israeli embassy with a signed letter saying she is giving up the baby. Any couple who can do that will get a passport immediately'.
The agreement will last until November 2014, given that many other Israeli couples are currently thought to be engaged in the various stages of the surrogacy process in Thailand. If the Thai Government does not indicate any further change to its policies, however, Israelis will no longer be able to access surrogacy services within Thailand.
Many of the parents who had chosen to use the Thai surrogacy services were reported to be homosexual couples. 'These couples went to Thailand because Israel doesn't allow same-sex couples to use surrogates', said Nitzan Horowitz, a member of the Israeli Knesset.
In a further development, the Israeli Health Ministry has now said that it intends to propose a bill that would enable homosexual couples to use surrogate mothers within Israel (see BioNews 735). The bill would also allow individuals, and not just married couples, to use Israeli surrogates, bringing its laws more in line with what it already entitles heterosexual couples to do.
Although the bill has faced much controversy, if passed, the new measures are expected to significantly reduce the costs that would have otherwise been incurred by couples needing to engage in overseas surrogacy. This may increase the accessibility of such services to a much wider range of Israeli citizens.