The Health Ministry has allowed ova to be removed from a lesbian woman in her 30s who should not become pregnant for medical reasons and given to her partner, who will have it fertilized with an anonymous sperm donation and carry the child.
The ministry tried to keep the case quiet at the adamant request of the two women, but Yediot Aharonot's Web site YNet published a story on Thursday, described as "inaccurate" by ministry legal adviser Mira Huebner.
She said it was not the first case of this type, although there were some variations that made it different from the "two previous cases" in which lesbians were able to transfer ova from one to another. She also said that contrary to the Internet report, it did not come under "surrogacy arrangements" which are allowed by law when one woman is paid to bear the baby of another couple who cannot have their own children.
Huebner said the donor and would-be recipient live together. "They are not doing this for ideological reasons, but because one of them would endanger her health by getting pregnant. Of course, they would both like to have a connection to the baby, but they will have to adopt it legally. This eventuality has explicitly been allowed by the Supreme Court about four months ago. The woman who gives birth is considered the baby's mother, according to Israeli law."
The ministry's legal adviser and her staff have been working for five years on a bill that would set down strict rules for the donation of ova by women who are themselves not undergoing fertility treatments. Huebner told The Jerusalem Post that some doctors were trying to delay it further, but she hoped the next session of the Knesset would pass it. If passed, it would become the first comprehensive ova donation law in the world, she said. At present, other countries have regulations and partial laws about egg donation.
For decades, Israeli law has allowed donations of ova to infertile women only by women who are undergoing fertility treatment themselves and have extra eggs. This was set down to prevent the sale of ova in view of the ongoing shortage of human ova. Donors were to give them to other women for humanitarian, idealistic reasons. Some 4,000 women - married and single - are currently waiting for an ovum donation.
But the infamous case of a senior Israeli gynecologist who allegedly took ova without permission from women he treated and "sold" them to other women induced the ministry to rethink the issue and eliminate the waiting list with a bill that would allow women to give ova even if they were not undergoing fertility treatment. They would receive monetary compensation for their time and discomfort, just as surrogate mothers are paid for carrying someone elseâ€šs fetus to term.
"Whether you like it or not, there are families like this," said Huebner. "I don't think there will be a lot of demand for such an arrangement."