The families of 65 babies born to Israeli parents through surrogacy are protesting to get the infants out of Thailand, where they have been unable to leave due to lack of passports.
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The families hold Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar responsible for failing to issue the children passports over the past two months.
According to the families, Sa’ar says that under Thai law, a surrogate mother is registered as the baby’s mother, so issuing a passport and transporting a baby to Israel could be considered abduction.
Sources familiar with the issue say the sticking point is the concession letter signed by the surrogate mothers. They say the letter does not end the surrogate mother’s legal claim to the babies, who are considered full Thai citizens. Thai law also lets the surrogate sue for custody, to be able to see the child in the future.
Also, Israeli officials fear that Bangkok could view the Israeli consulate as an accomplice to the abduction of babies from the country. The contacts between the Foreign Ministry and the Thai authorities have been described as “sensitive,” with the Interior Ministry unable to issue passports until an agreement has been reached.
Under the slogan “Gideon, your baby is at home, ours isn’t,” the families are using photos on social media. There, relatives and celebrities can be seen holding signs calling for the children to be let into Israel.
This week, the families and their supporters plan to hold two protest shifts outside Sa’ar’s Tel Aviv home, and if necessary, a large demonstration on Thursday. The families are particularly eager for the babies and parents to come to Israel now, as political violence rocks Bangkok.
In recent weeks, the issue has been tossed from the Foreign Ministry to the Justice Ministry to Sa’ar, as the issuing of passports falls under his jurisdiction.
On Monday, Sa’ar wrote on Facebook that he has tremendous empathy for the parents, adding that months ago he spoke with Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Health Minister Yael German about Israelis who have signed surrogacy agreements unregulated by Thai law.
The Foreign Ministry says it is in contact with the Thai authorities but can’t predict when the problem will be solved amid the instability in Thailand.
Unregulated surrogacy has become a big industry in the Asian country. According to a travel warning by the Israeli Foreign Ministry last month, a bill is on tap in Thailand to prohibit surrogacy in return for money.
The current process for establishing the parents’ status includes the signing of a contract with an unmarried surrogate mother, plus a written pledge from her to relinquish the child. But the existing legislation grants citizenship to any child born to a Thai mother and gives her custody, creating ambiguity.