Cabinet Approves Bill to Give Same-sex Couples Equal Surrogacy Rights

Bill gives same-sex couples equal treatment; Knesset to vote on amendments spearheaded by Health Minister Yael German (Yesh Atid).

Yael German.
Michal Fattal

Government ministers voted Sunday to approve a bill about surrogacy that would ensure equal treatment for single parents, same-sex couples and heterosexual couples alike.

The bill, an amendment to the existing 1996 surrogacy law, was spearheaded by Health Minister Yael German. “It’s as if... the Knesset is planning to have a baby,” said German (Yesh Atid). “This bill balances the desires and rights of each and every individual to be a parent with preserving the surrogate mother’s rights.”

Two weeks ago, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation decided to support the bill after seven ministers from Yesh Atid, Likud and Hatnuah voted to approve changes to the surrogacy law. Five ministers from Yisrael Beiteinu and Habayit Hayehudi opposed the amendments, which will now be voted upon in the Knesset.

Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel criticized the amendments at the time, saying, “We all have the same rights. I do not accept what the health minister is saying. We are not all the same. Not everyone is a family. Not all are equal.” Pensioner Affairs Minister Uri Orbach also voted against the proposed changes. “This bill is dangerous,” he said. “Heterosexual couples will be harmed. Gay couples have higher chances of raising the money necessary for surrogacy because they are two men, and earn more money.”

Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar, who voted in favor of the bill, said, “The question is not whether to practice surrogacy in Israel, but rather to expand it to same-sex couples, and I think that’s the right thing to do.”

After the Ministerial Committee vote, Habayit Hayehudi members filed an appeal with the government.

Yesh Atid responded to the appeal by filing its own appeal against a bill that lets judges veto pardons to terrorists, currently being pushed by Habayit Hayehudi. The bill seeks to prevent future presidents from granting pardons to terrorists, though is also meant to prevent the release of terrorists through peace talk negotiations.

Science and Technology Minister Jacob Perry stated that his party’s appeal was a matter of principle, to prevent hindering the government’s ability to engage in diplomatic negotiations, though other party officials stated it was also a move against Habayit Hayehudi.

Last December, German announced the introduction of an amendment to the surrogacy law, which would give gay and lesbian couples the right to become parents with the aid of surrogate mothers in Israel. The proposed changes were based on recommendations, submitted in May 2012, by a committee chaired by the director of the National Insurance Institute, Prof. Shlomo Mor-Yosef.

The panel recommended permitting singles and same-sex couples to use a surrogate in Israel, as well as allowing married women who have given birth in the past to serve as surrogates.

The new bill would limit each surrogate mother to three surrogate pregnancies, with no more than three in-vitro fertilization cycles for each pregnancy. Heterosexual couples would be limited to two children through surrogacy, while singles would be limited to one. The Health Ministry also adopted additional recommendations by the committee, including increasing the maximum age of surrogate mothers from 36 to 38. The amendment would limit the age of the prospective parents to 54 at the time the surrogacy agreement is signed.

German has also declared that she wants to expedite the process of repatriating infants born abroad through surrogacy to Israel. The health, justice, interior and social affairs ministries are to cooperate in amending existing laws, and in permitting children born overseas through approved IVF clinics to be brought into Israel.

Surrogacy is largely unregulated, governed in part by a patchwork of legal precedents and regulations issued by state agencies. When carried out abroad, surrogacy is usually subject to the law of the land in each country, but agreements between Israel and each country also play a part.

Daniel Bar-On