Bill regulating ova donation set to pass in Knesset

By BYBY JUDY SIEGEL
February 22, 2010 07:40

Bill to change situation in which only women undergoing fertility treatment themselves can donate ova they don't need.

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Illustrative photo

pregnant woman 311. (photo credit:Ariel Jerozolimski [illustrative])

The bill regulating ova donation – which has been in the making for a decade – is finally expected to pass in the Knesset on its second and third reading within a few weeks and come into effect half a year later, according to Health Ministry legal adviser Mira Huebner.

She told The Jerusalem Post that on Monday she will present the bill to the Ministerial Committee on Legislation to get recognition of continuity from the previous Knesset, which passed it on its first reading and then got stuck in disagreement.

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She said that since Deputy Health Minister MK Ya’acov Litzman – a Gur hassid representing United Torah Judaism – began to study the bill upon taking office, he has become a strong advocate, as he realized that the absence of such a bill would be very harmful. “I am sure it will be approved, as we have a majority behind it,” said Huebner, who prepared the first version of the bill a decade ago. Only small changes have been made since then, she said, even though the bill has been in preparation by a number of ministers.

As some leading rabbinical arbiters have changed their views in the past few decades on who is regarded by Jewish law as the halachic mother when the ova are taken from non-Jewish women, the bill states that the mother who receives the ova, conceives by in-vitro fertilization and gives birth will have to be told if the eggs did not come from a Jewish donor.

For years, the woman who gave birth was considered the mother by Jewish law, but now, many but not all arbiters believe the donor of the biological material is the mother. Thus the resulting infant would not, in their view, be Jewish unless converted. “The law will not make the the conversion of the child who is conceived from the ova of a non-Jew mandatory, but the couple will have to be told that there may be halachic problems; they will be asked to consult with their own rabbis,” said Huebner, who added that she hoped the new law will lead to the donation of many more ova, which are now almost unavailable except from abroad.

“I am very happy that the bill is about to become law. It’s one of the most complex pieces of legislation I have worked on due to its ethical, commercial, legal, religious and medical implications,” Huebner said.

The ministry legal adviser has gone to a variety of leading rabbis including Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar to explain the bill.

The problems caused by the shortage of Israeli donor eggs were highlighted last summer when Israelis running a fertility clinic in Romania were arrested after being suspected of marketing ova bought from poor Romanian women and sold at a high profit to Israeli women desperate for ova.

The bill will change the situation in which only women undergoing fertility treatment themselves are able to donate ova they do not need.

A few years ago, gynecologist and fertility expert Prof. Zion Ben-Raphael, then of the Rabin Medical Center, was convicted for “stealing” extra eggs from his patients without their knowledge. He was found to have overstimulated their ovaries with drugs so that they would produce an excess of ripe eggs for extraction. That case led to action on the government bill and discouraged many women from giving eggs for altruistic reasons – thus causing the severe shortage of human ova for donation.


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