Habayit Hayehudi Aiming to Bury Surrogacy Bill for Same-sex Couples

Housing minister appeals against the legislation supported by most of the Israeli cabinet.

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Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel has appealed against the cabinet’s decision to support the draft of a bill that would let same-sex couples and singles go through the surrogacy process in Israel instead of going abroad.

Ariel is a member of Economy Minister Naftali Bennett’s right-wing Habayit Hayehudi party.

The bill was approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation two weeks ago, but Ariel argues that the law poses “moral and ethical” questions about “what a family in Israel should look like.”

The filing of the appeal with the cabinet, rather than with the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, is seen as a better way to quash the bill. In his previous two terms, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rarely called for discussions of controversial bills under appeal to be discussed a second time.

Ariel warns that the bill would spark trafficking of women for the purpose of “using their wombs.” He says poorer women could start “renting out their wombs.”

Seven ministers – from Likud, Yesh Atid and Hatnuah – voted in favor, and five ministers – from Habayit Hayehudi and Yisrael Beiteinu – voted against.

“I don’t accept what the health minister says,” Ariel said during the committee debate. “Not everyone is the same. Not everyone is a family. Not everyone is equal.”

According to Pensioner Affairs Minister Uri Orbach, a member of Habayit Hayehudi who also voted against, “This bill is dangerous. Members of heterosexual couples will be hurt. Gay couples have a better chance of obtaining the necessary money and competing because they are two men and they earn more.”

Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar of Likud, who supported the bill, noted: “The question isn’t whether to have surrogacy in Israel, but whether to expand it to same-sex couples.”

Health Minister Yael German said she was stunned by the appeal, since she and her adviser had spent many hours with Habayit Hayehudi members to craft a compromise on contested issues. “I view the appeal, and especially its timing, as an unseemly move and a stab in the back,” German said.

In December, German announced efforts to change the surrogacy legislation. The draft version of the amendment presented by German was based largely on the recommendations of the Mor-Yosef Committee, which submitted its findings in May 2012.

Among the committee’s recommendations was that gay men and single women be permitted to use the services of a surrogate in Israel, and that married women be permitted to serve as surrogates.

A woman could serve as a surrogate no more than three times, with a maximum of three attempts at insemination each time. Heterosexual couples would be permitted to use surrogacy for up to two children; single women for just one child.

Other committee recommendations adopted by the Health Ministry include extending the maximum age for a surrogate to 38 from 36, and letting married women serve as surrogates if they have previously given birth. According to the draft of the bill, a prospective parent may be no older than 54 at the time the surrogacy agreement is signed.

German also pledged to try to simplify the process of surrogacy abroad. She said her ministry would work with the foreign, interior and social affairs ministries on ways to get the process done in Israel.

An Israeli couple and their surrogate baby in Thailand, January 2014.Credit: Itamar Wolf

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