Israel to Ease Rules of Overseas Surrogacy

Victory in suit brought by two gay couples: Up to now, Israel had insisted on a formal adoption by the parent who wasn't biologically related to the child.

The state will ease the procedure for recognizing Israelis as parents of children born to surrogate mothers abroad, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein told the Supreme Court Sunday. Prospective parents will not have to endure a complex adoption procedure if one of them is biologically related to the child.

Up to now, the state had insisted on a formal adoption by the parent who wasn't biologically related to the child. The state even went to court to enforce this policy.

The shift followed petitions to the Supreme Court by two gay couples. At a hearing about three months ago, the justices asked the state to consider easing its stance.

On Sunday, Weinstein told the court that until the matter was regulated by legislation, the state would suffice with a simple court order recognizing the parental relationship.

"Nonetheless, we should make clear that this agreement is being granted under the current special circumstances – from now until the completion of legislation," the state wrote.

It added that in such cases the courts would be guided by the recommendations of a special committee headed by Shlomo Mor-Yosef, the director general of the National Insurance Institute. The state asked the court for a month to draw up detailed regulations.

One key case in the run-up to Sunday's decision came in March. The Ramat Gan family court ruled that if a baby born to a couple via surrogacy was the man’s biological child, his wife should be recognized as the child’s mother without having to formally adopt the baby.

The ruling came in response to the case of a baby girl born to a religious couple via a surrogate mother in Armenia. The baby was conceived from the father’s sperm and a donated egg. Six weeks after the baby was born, a court confirmed the man’s paternity based on genetic testing and granted the baby Israeli citizenship.

But the Israeli authorities, following the standard procedure for babies brought to Israel from abroad, insisted that the wife formally adopt the girl before she could be registered as the baby’s mother.

The couple petitioned the family court and demanded that the woman be recognized as the mother without a protracted adoption procedure. The couple argued that the Armenian birth certificate and other documents proved that both of them were the child’s parents. They said the adoption procedure was offensive and would cast doubt on the woman’s parental status and her relationship with her daughter.

The attorney for the state, however, said that in a case where the mother did not deliver the child and could not prove a genetic link, the only way to confirm parenthood was formal adoption. She said adoption was in the child’s best interest and could prevent efforts by the authorities abroad and others from questioning the girl’s status or relationship to her parents.

The judge, Tamar Snunit-Forer, sided with the couple, saying that upon receiving a report on the couple from a social worker, she could issue a court order recognizing the woman’s maternity.

Gil Cohen-Magen