Health minister endorses reform to allow surrogacy for singles, homosexuals

Yael German wants to expand surrogacy law which thus far banned gay, lesbian couples from bringing a child through surrogate mother.

Health Minister Yael German 370 (photo credit: Judy Siegel-Itzkovich)
Health Minister Yael German 370
(photo credit: Judy Siegel-Itzkovich)
Health Minister Yael German on Wednesday accepted most of the far-reaching recommendations of the Mor- Yosef Committee to reform the process of surrogacy.
If the proposal becomes law, despite expected opposition from religious and other MKs, single women and single men will be entitled to sign surrogacy arrangements to produce a child using their ova or sperm, whether they are heterosexual or homosexual.
Homosexual and lesbian civil rights, and other groups, hailed German (Yesh Atid) for her decision.
Currently, the unmarried – whether homosexual or heterosexual – are barred from creating such an agreement with an Israeli surrogate.
Under the proposal, the age limit and status of surrogates would be expanded, to expand the small pool of willing surrogates that has caused prices for the service to skyrocket.
The current surrogacy law allows only heterosexual couples to give birth through a surrogate mother. Many couples and singles are forced to go abroad to achieve their dream of a child of their own.
The committee, which Health Ministry director-general Prof. Ronni Gamzu appointed in June 2010, was headed by Prof. Shlomo Mor-Yosef, the director-general of the National Insurance Institute and former longtime director-general of the Hadassah Medical Organization who is an obstetrician/ gynecologist by training.
The committee members had been assigned to find ways to change laws regarding in-vitro fertilization, ova and sperm donations, surrogate parenthood and other processes regarding fertility.
The committee was asked to protect the rights of the babies to be born and the surrogates, and to equalize the rights of women and men commissioning the surrogates.
German, who was mayor of Herzliya and a member of the Meretz party when the committee was appointed, said she accepted most of the recommendations and thanked the members for their important and in-depth work.
The principles they set down are to be turned into a government bill, but with some changes; then it is to be brought to the cabinet and on to the Knesset.
Equality is to be the guiding principle, expanding paid surrogacy to single women who provide ova and want to be single parents and to single men who provide sperm – instead of only to men and women who are couples.
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 parent is also to be able to take ova abroad for fertilization and implantation and to bring them to Israel – men will be able to get donated ova in Israel and take them abroad, while women and couples will be able to import them to Israel to perform the process here.
Women who act as surrogates are to get additional rights through the improved organization of the process, which is strictly private and is an arrangement among the parties.
The government and the Health Ministry in particular are to supervise but not be responsible for the results or pay the costs.
The surrogate is expected to be entitled to undergo no more than three procedures to insert fertilized eggs in her womb. Heterosexual couples will be able to have up to two babies by surrogacy, while singles will be able to have one, according to the recommendations.
The cost to the parents will drop, because surrogacy will become more accessible, German said. It will no longer be the privilege of the wealthy, and the ministry will regulate and periodically update the price.
Surrogates may be up to the age of 38 instead of the current maximum of 36.
For the first time, married and not only unmarried women are to be allowed to serve as surrogates, on condition that they gave birth to their own babies beforehand.
The maximum age of the parent is to be raised to 54 years. If the commissioning couple have one child together not born through surrogacy, they could get approval for just one child via surrogacy.
As for singles who have no children, they would be eligible to produce one child by surrogacy.
Two singles could carry out two surrogacy agreements and get two children.
As for surrogacy carried out abroad, the committee recommended, and the minister approved, simplification of the procedures, especially regarding the return of the baby to Israel, through legislation to be prepared by the Health, Foreign, Interior and Social Welfare ministries.
The foreign clinics where the procedure is carried out must meet ministry standards.
Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz, who is a declared homosexual, welcomed the proposals and called on the health minister to advance them, even without support from the coalition, because coalition members Yisrael Beytenu or Bayit Hayehudi are “likely to oppose it.
“Hundreds of thousands of Israelis don’t have the right to have a family,” he said, because the rabbinate does not recognize them as Jews or because they are couples of the same gender.
German’s declaration, he concluded, “is an important step but the path to quality is still long.”