Israel Ordered to Explain Why It's Barring Use of Sperm From 'Serial' U.S. Donor

Israeli woman took Health Ministry to court for refusing to allow her to get donation from Ari Nagel, who has already provided sperm to six Israeli women

Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati
American sperm donor Ari Nagel
American sperm donor Ari Nagel.Credit: From Facebook page
Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati

A High Court of Justice panel has ordered the Health Ministry to explain why it is preventing an Israeli woman seeking to undergo in vitro fertilization from using sperm from American-Jewish sperm donor Ari Nagel.

Nagel, who lives in New York and is a married father of three, is a prodigious sperm donor who over the past decade has fathered children in the United States and abroad using sperm that he has donated at no charge. In a letter to sperm banks and to the Israeli woman now seeking to use his sperm, the Health Ministry said Nagel’s sperm does not meet the criteria set in Israeli law.

Nagel has already provided sperm to six Israeli women in their early 40s. He agreed to provide sperm to the 43-year-old petitioner now before the court as well. But in December when she sought to have Nagel’s frozen sperm sent to Israel for use at a private fertility clinic in Israel, the clinic said it could not store or use his donation because to do so would violate Health Ministry regulations and Israeli law. In response the woman and Nagel filed their High Court petition challenging the refusal.

Israeli law requires that the donor remain anonymous, so that neither the donor nor the recipient know the other’s identity. The other option provided by Israeli law is that the sperm come from a man who acknowledges paternity and commits to raise the child jointly with the woman.

In an effort to bypass the Israeli requirements, Nagel provided documents to the six prior women who received his sperm committing to jointly rear the children whom he fathers with them. He did the same with the current petitioner, even though he is married and has three children whom he is raising with his wife.

Nagel appears to have viewed the commitment to raise the Israeli women’s children as a bureaucratic procedure devoid of real importance, but the Health Ministry has been unconvinced that he has satisfied the requirements of the law and has refused to recognize his commitment to the seven Israeli women. In a letter to the women, the Health Ministry wrote that in light of the number of women to whom Nagel has donated his sperm, it believes that Nagel’s commitment to joint parenthood with the Israeli women is not “sincere or reasonable.”

In addition to the show-cause order that the High Court of Justice issued, it has also required that Nagel submit a detailed affidavit within 30 days, supported by documentation, demonstrating that he has satisfied the Health Ministry requirements. Among the information that the court is asking from Nagel is detail regarding “his status and that of his wife from his marriage and his children with her” as well as information regarding his “parental commitment.” At press time, Haaretz has not received a reaction from Nagel.

Nagel is a 42-year-old math professor at City University of New York and lives in Brooklyn. He and his wife have three children; the youngest is 4 years old and the oldest, 14.

In June, Nagel told Haaretz that he had visited Israel three times recently at the request of women who had been uncomfortable with the prospect of receiving sperm from an anonymous donor, adding that it was in the course of those visits that he sign the parenting commitment agreements with the six earlier recipients, who received the sperm for future use. Some of them found it difficult to reconcile themselves with having children who would never know who their father was, he said.

Nagel’s prolific sperm donations have attracted wide media coverage over the past decade and began without bureaucratic procedure or the involvement of sperm banks, for immediate use or to be frozen for future use. He provided sperm in cups in public restrooms, at a Brooklyn park and at a Starbuck’s café.

He simply likes seeing the happiness that it creates for the women and children, he told the Israeli Ynet news website, suggesting that people not disregard the despair of childless women. And, he added, he never has to get up in the middle of the night to deal with a crying baby.

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