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Health Ministry advocates allowing gay couples to use surrogate mothers
By LAHAV HARKOV
26/01/2014
Amid flap over Thai surrogates, ministry says to propose bill allowing individuals, not just married couples, to use surrogacy services.
 
The Health Ministry plans to propose a bill allowing gay couples to hire surrogate mothers, Health Ministry Legal Adviser Avital Weiner told the Knesset Interior Committee Sunday.

The bill would allow individuals – not just married couples – to use a surrogate mother's services, thus allowing same-sex couples to do so.

The Health Ministry's announcement came during an Interior Committee meeting on couples who used surrogates in Thailand, and are unable to bring their babies to Israel because the Interior Ministry refuses to give them passports.

According to Thai law, these babies are citizens of Thailand, and their extraction would be considered kidnapping.

Most of the babies in question belong to homosexual couples.

“These couples went to Thailand because Israel doesn't allow same-sex couples to use surrogates,” MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), the only openly gay lawmaker in the Knesset, said. “[Homosexuals] are also pushed to the bottom of the list for adoption.”

Horowitz pointed out that surrogacy is legal in some parts of the US, but it is more expensive than going to Thailand.

“These are biological children of Israeli fathers and therefore, they deserve Israeli citizenship,” the Meretz MK said.

“Someone in Israel decided to be stricter than any other country. What's good enough for other civilized countries should be good enough for Israel,” he added MK Stav Shaffir (Labor) posited that the couples are being treated badly because they are gay, but Horowitz and MK Adi Kol (Yesh Atid) pointed out that heterosexual couples are also waiting in Thailand with their babies.

Foreign Ministry Director- General Nissim Ben Sheetrit said this is not a case of discrimination against gays, but that the Thai government suspects that surrogacy is akin to human trafficking and thinks the baby should belong to the surrogate mother.

“Despite the complex political situation in Thailand, we reached an agreement in which the mother can come to the Israeli embassy with a signed letter saying she is giving up the baby. Any couple who can do that will get a passport immediately,” Sheetrit said.

However, he added, the agreement with Thailand is only until November, after which surrogacy will no longer be legal there.

Udi Ledergur, the chairman of Proud Parents, an NGO for gay fathers, said it held demonstrations to help the parents in Thailand, but also to convince the government to allow same-sex couples to use surrogates in Israel.

Kol, however, accused Ledergur of starting an inappropriate campaign against Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar.

Amir Ohana, head of the gay group within the Likud, said “it is clear to me, without any doubt, that the Interior Minister, with his office, did all he can to support the gay community.”

Population, Immigration and Borders Authority Director- General Amnon Ben-Ami said Sa’ar “hasn't stopped driving us crazy for the past three months to try to find a solution.

“You don’t know how much pressure Sa’ar put on us to solve the problem, even if it hurts relations with Thailand,” Ben-Ami said.

“Right-wing people support the LGBT community too,” Knesset Interior Committee chairwoman Miri Regev (Likud Beytenu) said.
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