A bill permitting same-sex couples and single men and women to use surrogacy in Israel has been approved by the Israeli Cabinet. The bill now needs to be passed by Israel's parliament, the Knesset, before it can become law.
Under the current law only married heterosexual couples can use surrogacy in Israel. Same-sex couples and single parents are required to travel overseas and to enter into international surrogacy agreements, incurring extra costs and facing legal complications. Earlier this year the Israeli Government came under pressure from parents after it refused citizenship to babies born through surrogacy arrangements conducted in Thailand after a change in Thai parenthood laws, leaving parents unable to bring their children back home (reported in BioNews 739 and 740).
Elad, from Tel Aviv, whose six-month-old daughter was born via surrogacy, told the Jerusalem Post that together with his partner they went through an expensive, complicated and cumbersome two-year process that involved weaving through the bureaucratic red tape in order to bring their daughter from India to Israel.
'It's very unfortunate that up until now it hasn't been an option for us to be able to go through the process in Israel', he said.
The bill was introduced by health minister Yael German and, if passed, will permit any couple, including homosexuals, to be eligible to use surrogates in Israel if they are under the age of 54 and up to a maximum of two children (reported in BioNews 735). It will also allow single people to use surrogates in certain circumstances.
German said that 'the bill balances the desire and right of everyone to be a parent with protecting the surrogate mother and her rights'.
It is expected that the bill may increase the accessibility of such services to a wider range of Israeli citizens. In 2012, 126 people undertook the process abroad, while only 41 had surrogate births in Israel.
In support of the bill, Ofer Shelah, a member of the Knesset, said in the Times of Israel: 'This is an important step toward changing the face of Israeli society, and raising awareness. The surrogacy law is a significant process toward equality and openness, and from the moment it was presented by the health minister, we promised we would fight without compromising until it passes in the cabinet and Knesset.
'We kept this promise, despite a political struggle that wasn't simple, and we will continue to keep it until it becomes part of Israeli law'.
However, Irit Rosenblum, founder of the NGO, New Family, cautioned that the bill merely pays lip service to the LGBT community and any celebrating at this point would be premature. 'The new bill, with all of its humiliating committees and complex system that deals with agencies and laboratories abroad that have to authorise [the surrogacy], this ensures that there will be no surrogacy in Israel and many people will remain miserable'.
The Cabinet approval overturned an appeal by Housing Minister Uri Ariel. The Knesset is yet to approve the proposed legislation and although members of the Jewish Home party are opposed to the proposal, the Times of Israel published that the bill is likely to be passed.