A committee appointed by Israel's Health Ministry has issued groundbreaking recommendations Sunday regarding fertility and birth polices, among them allowing gay men to use a surrogate mother in order to conceive a child.
The public committee, which was set up two years ago to examine policies surrounding fertility and birth, concluded its proceedings Sunday, issuing a report that may transform Israel into one of the most progressive countries in the world in this field.
Among the report's recommendations are extending the right to conceive children with a surrogate mother to gay men and single women, allowing married women to serve as surrogates, allowing married men and women to undergo fertility treatment with people other than their spouses without notifying them, and allowing non-anonymous sperm donation by which a child may learn the donor's identity upon reaching 18.
The committee was appointed in August 2010, headed by Shlomo Mor Yosef, chairman of the Israel National Institute for Health Policy Research and CEO of the National Insurance Institute of Israel. The committee was made up of 12 members; ethicists, doctors, and social workers.
The committee was established to cope with the rapid advances made in the science and technology of fertility treatments and child birth, which presented the state and health care providers with ethical, economic and religious dilemmas.
The committee's most far-reaching recommendations are those regarding the policies surrounding surrogate childbearing. According to the recommendations, the right to have children using a surrogate mother should be extended to single women, with medical problems that bar them from conceiving. Under the current regulations only married couples are allowed to use surrogate mothers.
Men will also gain the right to use surrogate mothers, though they will not be allowed to use for-pay surrogates but only "altruistic surrogates," women who volunteer to bear a child for free.
For this purpose the committee recommends expanding the criteria for surrogate mothers, allowing married women to serve as surrogates, while today only single and divorced women can do so. The committee also recommends family members be allowed to serve as surrogates as long as they aren't daughters, grandmothers or grandchildren.
Mor Yosef explained that without allowing family members to serve as surrogates "altruistic surrogates" would probably not be found.
"The rationale behind the limiting of use of surrogates by men was the fear of a major growth in the number of women forced to become surrogate mothers as a way to mitigate financial woes," Mor Yosef said. "We didn't want the competition over this 'limited resource', surrogate mothers, to become too economically aggressive, leading to a substantial rise in the price of the process."
Today, the price is determined between the couple and the surrogate mother. The committee worried that if the market for surrogate mothers expanded too much, the increased demand would drive up prices to levels that would make it unattainable for many parents.
Not all the committee members agreed that the policy regarding surrogate mothers should be liberalized. Five of the committee's members thought the practice of for-pay surrogate mothers should be completely banned, even in the case of married couples, under the ground that this was legitimizing the sale of women's wombs. These members proposed that only "altruistic surrogates" be permitted.
"The committee didn't accept this position because during the 15 years in which surrogate childbearing had taken place in Israel no problems requiring the practice be stopped had arisen," Mor Yosef explained.
Another revolutionary recommendation made by the committee has to do with the regulation of sperm donation. The committee recommended that a non-anonymous sperm donation, whereby, the child will be able to learn his donor father's identity upon reaching the age of 18, though the father will still have no rights or obligations towards the child.
Another recommendation regarding sperm donation is the limiting of sperm donation by one man to up to seven women. This is due to findings by the State Comptroller's office that a handful of male donors are used to fertilize many women, which could lead to incest, inbreeding, and other ethical problems.
The committee also recommends that married men be allowed to go through fertility treatments with women other than their wife without her knowledge or consent. The opposite situation, whereby a married woman may go through fertility treatment with a man other than her husband and without his knowledge will also be permitted.
This recommendation also had some dissenting members, but was made none the less.
The committee's recommendations are a political bombshell, especially in light of the fact that the Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, is ultra-orthodox of the Gur sect and the United Torah Judaism religious party. Despite, this people who work close to Litzman said he will not oppose the recommendations and will leave the ministry's administration to deal with the recommendations.
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