A Health Ministry-appointed committee of experts presented a wide range of
recommendations Sunday to amend laws regarding in-vitro fertilization, ova and
sperm donations, surrogate parenthood and other processes regarding
The principle guiding the committee was the protection of the
resulting babies’ interests, and equalizing the rights of women and men. The
recommendations deal with sperm and ova donations after death; age limitations
for fertility treatment; gamete donations for single people, including
homosexuals; and surrogacy abroad for Israelis, among other controversial
Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman has said he will not
interfere and will leave decisions to professionals and to MKs, but that passage
of amendments to laws and writing new regulations could take some
“It will not happen tomorrow morning,” Mira Huebner, the ministry’s
legal adviser, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.
Huebner said that as
the surrogacy law, for example, was legislated 15 years ago, changes were
necessary to suit the times.
Heading the 13-member committee of experts
was National Insurance Institute director-general Prof. Shlomo Mor-Yosef, a
gynecologist by training and a former longtime director-general of the Hadassah
Medical Organization. The other members were Huebner; Prof. Riad Agaria, head of
Ben- Gurion University of the Negev’s School of Pharmacy; Prof. Martha Dirnfeld,
head of the IVF unit at Carmel Medical Center; social worker Orna Hirschfeld, an
expert in adoption at the Welfare and Social Services Ministry; Health Ministry
medical ethics expert Rabbi Dr. Mordechai Halperin; clinical psychologist Dr.
Shlomit Cohen; Justice Ministry lawyer Moriya Cohen-Bakshi; Tel Aviv University
ethicist and emeritus Prof. Assa Kasher; Shaare Zedek Medical Center medical
geneticist Prof. Ephrat Levy-Lahad; gynecology Prof. Yossi Lessing of Lis
Hospital; former attorney-general adviser Yehoshua Schoffman; and Shaare Zedek
pediatric neurologist and Jewish medical ethicist Prof. Avraham Steinberg. The
committee coordinator was Avital Weiner-Aumann of the Health
The public committee presented its recommendations to ministry
Ronni Gamzu on Sunday after holding 22 sessions
during the last 18 months of deliberations.
Gamzu thanked Mor-Yosef and
his colleagues for “a fundamental, comprehensive, balanced and innovative set of
Mor-Yosef told the Post that “it is not drama, but
there are changes. Some things can be done immediately; some need regulations
and others laws.
Now the recommendations are in the hands of the Health
Ministry and politicians in the Knesset.”
Although homosexuals and
lesbians will benefit if the recommendations are implemented, the committee
purposely does not deal with such status, referring only to “single” or
“We did this on purpose. On some issues, there was a
minority that opposed some recommendations, but these are listed, and we decided
by a majority vote,” said Mor-Yosef.
One subject the recommendations
included involved the donation of embryos. The committee said there should be a
bank of surplus embryos for donation, and that donation must be anonymous and
open to all who are eligible to receive it, not just specific women or those
with family connections to the donor. The embryos would be preserved for five
years with the option of another five. Afterward, they would be destroyed or
donated for research if the donor agreed in writing.
According to the
recommendations, genetic material (sperm, eggs or fertilized eggs) can be used
after death to produce children related to one of the donors within five years
of the death.
Regarding surrogacy, the committee recommended that a
married woman could serve as a surrogate mother instead of only unmarried women,
as is the situation today. A relative – excluding a mother, daughter,
grandmother or granddaughter – could serve as a surrogate for her relative; but
a sister could not serve as a surrogate to carry an embryo produced by her
Surrogacy arrangements would be allowed only if a couple
had no more than one child beforehand, and for a single woman or man if she/he
had no children. The maximum age for parenthood through surrogacy will be 54
years when the agreement is signed; a surrogate mother may be only up to 38
Surrogacy would be allowed for new groups, including single
women who have a medical condition preventing them from carrying a pregnancy;
and single men, but only if the woman bearing the pregnancy is doing so for
altruistic reasons, without receiving payment.
A woman may serve as a
surrogate for a maximum of three times; each woman may undergo three attempts to
get pregnant and become a surrogate.
An inter-ministry committee would
recognize foreign clinics, based on documentation, for carrying out surrogacy
Israeli doctors and middlemen would not be allowed to carry
out surrogacy in unrecognized foreign clinics; doing so would be a criminal
offense in Israel.
Meanwhile, the Progressive (Reform) Movement in Israel
commented that a few years ago, its rabbinical council set policy on surrogacy
among its members and called for full equality for heterosexual and homosexual
partners. Its rabbis have held ceremonies marking births involving homosexual
partners. As such, the movement was pleased with the Mor-Yosef committee
recommendations, and said it hoped to see them implemented.
other organizations objected to the fact that only altruistic women could serve
as surrogates for single-sex couples, saying they believed not many women would
agree to do this without pay.