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 fertility.

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 subjects.

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 time.

“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 Ministry.

The public committee presented its recommendations to ministry director-general Prof.

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 recommendations.”

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 “married” people.

“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 brother’s sperm.

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 years old.

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 arrangements.

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.

However, 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.

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