Hallel Morag and Roy Grufi are a gay Jerusalem couple in their early 30s who want a child.
Morag, an Ashkenazi, is a music teacher; Grufi, of Yemenite origin, works at Sikkuy, an association that promotes equality and dialogue between Israeli Arabs and Jews. Now, years after they got married, they want to start a family.
As their decision to have children faces a number of obstacles in Israeli law, Grufi and Morag have decided to enlarge their family life through the help of a surrogate mother.
“We don’t have too many options,” says Grufi. “From the beginning of our life together, we knew we wanted to have children. We knew that it wouldn’t be easy, but only recently did we realize the magnitude of the challenge and we have begun to take action.”
The use of a surrogate for pregnancy has become more common among male gay couples – with a surrogate woman carrying an egg fertilized by sperm of one of the men. Women become surrogates for financial or humanitarian reasons or both. Many people have raised concerns about misogyny inherent in surrogacy, since it entails “buying” a woman’s body. Grufi and Morag are well aware of these concerns, and emphasize that in the past this was certainly an issue in Third World countries like India and Nepal. “But today this is not the case anymore. The governments of India and Nepal have put an end to this, so this is not an option for us. We never even considered that option anyway; it seemed wrong to us,” Grufi says “First we thought adoption would be the right thing to do for both sides,” says Morag. While the Labor and Social Services Ministry changed its official position, permitting adoption by gay parents, the law has not yet been amended and adoption is consequently still closed for gays here.
“Even adoption abroad is not possible for gay Israelis,” adds Grufi, unless the candidates for adoption hold a foreign passport in addition to their Israeli identity papers. Presently, adoption is open for Israelis in only three countries: one is Russia, the other two are Muslim republics formerly part of the Soviet Union, and all three countries forbid gays from adopting there. In some cases, Israelis who adopt abroad, even if they hold a foreign passport, are required to remain and live in the countries where they adopted children and renounce their Israeli citizenship.
“Still, things are moving in the right direction. When I compare the atmosphere here in the early 2000s, when I came out of the closet, to the atmosphere today, there is a huge difference,” says Grufi. “However, it stops at the threshold of the concept of marriage and having a family. That will not change in the near future, I believe.”
So the two opted for a surrogate pregnancy in the US and have started to wend their way through the bureaucracy for that purpose. “We discovered that it was going to be a very costly operation,” says Morag.
“Much more than we had in mind.”
They estimate the costs to exceed NIS 700,000. Even after exhausting all their savings, accepting generous help from both of their families, they are still short of the sum required. Moreover, Grufi points out, it is difficult to estimate the actual total sum, since there are so many unpredictable factors.
“Suppose the child is premature. It will require a stay in a clinic until it reaches the required weight, and that could take weeks – with every day in an American hospital costing thousands of dollars. Who knows what can happen?” Married in a civil procedure abroad – in their case in Copenhagen – Grufi and Morag are recognized as married with regard to many rights in the country. “The tax authorities have led the way. It is in their own interest,” explains Morag.
The surrogacy procedure is lengthy and requires much testing and supervision by agencies in America that provide the services, including health tests for the surrogate woman. It is based on using an ovule from an ovule bank, as the surrogate woman is in fact only the host for the pregnancy.
Morag and Grufi emphasize that their friends and families – and even Morag’s students – are very supportive of the decision of the two to have children.