Same-sex couples and singles across the country have a reason to rejoice as the government approved changing surrogacy guidelines on Sunday.
Yesterday, after months of political wrangling, Likud, Yesh Atid and Hatnua voted for Health Minister Yael German’s proposal to expand legal surrogacy eligibility, in Israel and abroad, beyond heterosexual couples. Bayit Yehudi ministers voted against and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman abstained.
“We don’t think we deserve less than any couple. We both served in the military and pay taxes and we don’t think we should have less than any other [Israeli] couple has,” said, Elad, a 32 year old from Tel Aviv, whose 6-month-old daughter Alona was conceived via surrogacy.
Together with his partner, Elad, who asked that his last name be withheld in order to protect his privacy, went through an expensive, complicated and cumbersome two-year process that involved weaving through the bureaucratic red tape in order to bring their daughter from India to Israel.
“[It’s] very unfortunate that up until now it hasn’t been an option for us to be able to go through the process [in Israel],” Elad added, referencing the limited options available to same-sex couples and singles who wish to conceive through surrogacy in Israel.
While the Ministerial Committee for Legislation voted in favor of the bill last March, Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel submitted an appeal, which escalated into a political battle between Bayit Yehudi and Yesh Atid, who blocked many of each other’s proposals.
The legislative war concluded yesterday, with the ministers in each party removing their appeals on the other’s bills. As such, the surrogacy bill was brought to a vote and the ministers were supposed to vote on a Bayit Yehudi proposal to limit presidential pardons for terrorists, but Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu delayed it until next week.
“It feels like the ova are thawed and now we can create the baby and deliver it in the Knesset,” German poeticized upon the bill’s passing.
The Yesh Atid minister said that, now that the bill is no longer blocked, the party will work to pass it into law as soon as possible and bring “long-awaited equality.”
According to German, “the bill balances the desire and right of everyone to be a parent with protecting the surrogate mother and her rights.”
MK Adi Kol (Yesh Atid), whose Knesset Public Petitions Committee dealt comprehensively with same-sex and single parents’ issues, called the vote “a blessed breakthrough, which puts an end to discrimination in the area of fertility.”
However, Irit Rosenblum, founder of the “New Family” NGO, cautioned the bill merely pays lip service to the LGBT community and any celebrating at this point would be premature.
“The new proposal is terrible. Not only does it not fix the existing law so that there is really surrogacy in Israel, but it harms the little bit that exists and does not take care of real problems in the law,” Rosenblum said. “The new bill, with all of its humiliating committees and complex system that deals with agencies and laboratories abroad that have to authorize [the surrogacy], this ensures that there will be no surrogacy in Israel and many people will remain miserable.”
“We’re looking forward hopefully for the next cycle when we have another baby, which we can have in Israel and not somewhere else,” Elad said, already looking forward to the bill’s passing so he can expand his family without navigating through legislative and medical loops. “Now the Knesset has to raise the bar and pass the law [so we can] have babies in Israel, not anywhere else.”
Noa Amouyal contributed to this report.