Israel's Interior Minister: We Should Let in Pregnant Surrogate Nepalese Mothers

Meanwhile, no solution has yet been finalized for the dozens of prospective parents in Israel and their surrogates in Nepal who are in various stages of pregnancy.

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People gather on an open space for security reasons at Basantapur Durbar Square, damaged in Saturday’s earthquake, in Kathmandu, Nepal, April 26, 2015.
People gather on an open space for security reasons at Basantapur Durbar Square, damaged in Saturday’s earthquake, in Kathmandu, Nepal, April 26, 2015. Credit: AP

After India and Thailand shut their doors to foreigners seeking surrogate mothers, Nepal became the primary destination for Israelis looking to pursue surrogacy. Twenty-six babies were born there to Israelis in recent weeks, and Saturday’s earthquake caught the fathers, babies and other family members in the capital of Kathmandu, waiting to complete the bureaucratic procedures that would enable them to return to Israel.

Following the earthquake, Interior Minister Gilad Erdan decided to allow the babies into Israel before all the paperwork is done, though the fathers will have to complete the procedures here. As a result, last night three premature babies were flown to Israel with their parents, while the other 23 are expected to be flown back during the next 24 hours, barring any last-minute disruptions.

Parents fled the hotels they were staying in Nepal after the earthquake fearing they might collapse. They brought their babies to the courtyard of the Israeli Embassy to await their flights home.

“It’s quiet now after the earthquake. Finally the electricity came back and I could charge my phone and update here,” wrote Alon Michaeli Molian on his Facebook page Sunday. He is in Kathmandu with his partner, Amir, their daughter Shira, and new baby Maya, who was born a week and a half ago.

“An El Al flight will leave Monday afternoon to get us out of here. We are counting every minute,” he said. “We had a very tough night here; the aftershocks were scary. The earthquake in the afternoon was dramatic but we were in an open area the rest of the day and we tried to enjoy the situation. The fuel here is running out and the access routes to fuel are blocked, so that there’s no electricity, no running water and no communications. We have another night and half a day like this.”

Meanwhile, no solution has yet been finalized for the dozens of prospective parents in Israel and their surrogates in Nepal who are in various stages of pregnancy. Erdan Sunday said he would allow the surrogates to come to Israel to complete their pregnancies here, and an announcement to that effect was even made by the Population, Border and Immigration Authority. “Following legal consultations, the Justice Ministry expressed support for the position of Interior Minister Gilad Erdan to allow the entry into Israel of the surrogate mothers who are in advanced stages of pregnancy and who are now in Nepal,” the statement said. “The landing of these women in Israel will provide them with a suitable medical environment and remove them from the danger zones.”

But expectant parents said they had not received any official notice of this, while the Justice Ministry said that no final decision had been made regarding allowing the surrogates into Israel.

Ronen and Tom Ziv had intended to return to Nepal in a few days for their second surrogate birth in that country.

“We’re in an advanced stage of pregnancy; the surrogate is in her 35th week,” Ronen told Haaretz. “We had plane tickets and a hotel booked, but now there are no regular flights and according to reports we’ve received the hotel was destroyed. We are extremely anxious; she’s heavily pregnant, we hope she hasn’t given birth in the meantime, but she will definitely give birth in the next week or two and the situation there is pretty catastrophic.

“All day we’ve been trying to exert pressure so that the Israeli authorities will agree to bring her here so she can give birth here,” Ronen said. “There’s the impression that we’re getting somewhere but we can’t be sure. ”

Under current law, only married heterosexual couples are allowed to use a surrogate mother to carry and bear their child within the confines of Israel. For gay couples interested in surrogacy, therefore, the only option is seeking a mother overseas. A new bill would allow gay couples to use surrogate mothers in Israel, but it has yet to be passed into law by the Knesset.

Given the great value attached to having children in Israel, it is common for gay couples in the country to become parents. However, the options for using surrogate mothers overseas are very limited, as many countries either ban the practice entirely or do not permit women to carry and bear children for gay couples.

Besides the United States and Canada, Nepal is one of the few places where it is still allowed today. Because the costs of surrogacy are much cheaper in Nepal – about half the going price in North America – it is an increasingly popular destination for gay Israeli couples interested in having children.

There are about a dozen surrogacy consultancy agencies operating in Israel today.

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