Newborn baby [Illustrative].
(photo credit: INIMAGE)
An amendment to the Surrogacy Law of 1996 was passed on its first reading in the Knesset plenum late on Monday that, if eventually approved, would allow unmarried heterosexuals and homosexual and lesbian couples to commission a surrogate to produce a baby. The amendment was initiated by Health Minister Yael German, under whose auspices the original law is carried out.
In addition to including singles and single-sex couples under the law, it would also expand the number of women who want to serve as surrogates by allowing Israelis to commission them abroad either personally or through a middleman company. The money that the surrogate would receive for her services would be limited. An approval committee would, as before, have to give its approval before would-be parents are allowed to start the procedure.
German said that in recent years, numerous Israelis have traveled abroad to try to have a child through a surrogate. As the procedure for Israelis is not recognized when carried out abroad, they have faced many legal and ethical problems, especially those involving citizenship for the baby.
The committee headed by National Insurance Institute director-general Prof. Shlomo Mor-Yosef recommended that unmarried women and men without a female partner should be able to go through the surrogacy agreement just like married couples of the two sexes.
German said the amendment forges a balance between the needs of those who want to become parents and protection for surrogates who are paid to carry and deliver their child.
But passage will not be simple, as it was opposed both by religious and women’s rights groups. United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni said the amendment would “destroy the structure of the family, and women will sell their bodies.” Shas MK Nissim Ze’ev compared the bill to “talking about the import of frozen meat.”
Meretz MK Michal Rosin said that despite the goodwill posed by the amendment, “there is a big problem of [renting out] one’s uterus. Women who serve as surrogates are weak [economically] and do it to make a living. Pregnancy and delivery are potentially dangerous, and sometimes, surrogates pay a heavy physical and emotional price. It isn’t like semen samples from men. A lot of work has to be done on this bill,” she said.
A total of 45 MKs approved the bill on its first reading, 15 opposed and three abstained. It will now go to the Knesset House Committee for a decision on what committee will prepare it for its second and third readings. The Bayit Yehudi party gave its MKs the right to decide how to vote themselves.
Under the proposal, once one person initiates a surrogacy agreement, another single can be recognized as a parent of the child without having to adopt it later; this is meant to suit lesbians and homosexuals.
The biological parent would also be able to take ova abroad for fertilization and implantation. Men would be allowed to get donated ova in Israel and take them abroad, while women and couples could import them to Israel to perform the process here.
The surrogate would be entitled to undergo no more than three procedures to insert fertilized eggs in her womb. Heterosexual couples would be able to have up to two babies by surrogacy, while singles would be able to have one. The maximum age of the parent would be raised to 54 years. Foreign clinics where the procedure would be carried out will have to meet ministry standards.