New Family sees growing trend in soldiers freezing their sperm

Wives fearing husbands will die in battle freeze sperm to preserve future generation.

July 1, 2007 21:56
3 minute read.
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When Ronnie Diskin's husband was called up for reserve duty in the midst of the Second Lebanon War last summer, she realized that she could take no chances on losing the man she had chosen to father her future children. "I was worried something might happen to him and the possibility of losing him made me want to create some sort of 'insurance policy,'" said the 28-year-old in an interview with The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. That insurance policy, decided Diskin, was to find a way of freezing her 32-year-old officer husband's sperm so that if anything did happen to him, she would still be able to give life to their joint children. "I love my husband and he was the person I chose to be the father of my children," she explained. In order to facilitate the process of freezing her husband's sperm and insuring that she would be named as the heir, Diskin turned to New Family, an organization that advocates the rights of alternative families in Israel. According to Irit Rosenblum, New Family's director, Diskin and her husband were not alone in their desire to bank their sperm in case of tragedy. During the war, more than 30 soldiers serving either in compulsory service or reserve duty turned to the organization, asking it to draft what Rosenblum has termed a "Biological Will." And in the last year, Rosenblum estimated that at least 120 more soldiers have followed suit. "It is definitely a growing trend," noted Rosenblum. "Unfortunately, the effects of last summer's war still seem to be with us and there is a constant atmosphere that something bad will happen. People [like Diskin] don't want to take any chances. "Fertility technology is unbelievably advanced and for many families it helps them come to terms with their loss and grief," she continued. "Besides, it's a basic human right and there is no reason not to do it." But the government takes a different angle on the subject. While the current law allows for wives or common law partners to use the frozen sperm of their deceased partner, parents of unmarried or single soldiers are not afforded the right to decide whether the sperm can be used in the future. And despite a court victory procured by New Family last January, in which one Rachel Cohen was granted permission by the Tel Aviv Family Court to use her son Kevin's extracted sperm to create a grandchild, Rosenblum said the whole process of biological last rites still had a very long way to go. "That case was started in 2003, before the attorney-general ruled that sperm could only be used by spouses or long-term partners," pointed out Rosenblum, adding that while the case set an international precedent, in Israel it could quite easily be overturned by a higher court of law. With the number of soldiers wanting to freeze their sperm growing, Rosenblum said the only way forward was to continue taking individual cases like that of the Cohens to court and eventually using each victory as a building block to establishing a comprehensive Biological Will law. "We are advancing this matter all the time," she said. "We don't want to create a revolution, but we hope to get there gradually." Rosenblum added: "In a period where single women are allowed to obtain sperm from an anonymous donation in a sperm bank and raise a child without knowing who the father is, it seems crazy that the connection cannot be made between the woman and a family who wants to continue their son's legacy." "Some might see this as very pessimistic, but I believe it is optimistic," stated Diskin. "There are many alternative families in Israel and if this gives me the chance to have my husband's children even after he is gone then I am very happy."

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