A new directive by Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz will allow lesbian couples who are seeking to conceive via sperm donation to open a join file in a sperm bank, bringing the process in line with that of heterosexual couples, Haaretz has learned.
Not only is this a significant step for gender equality, but it is also expected to help both members of the same-couple attain parental status via order of the court.
The sperm donation process for heterosexual couples requires the written consent of the woman and her partner. Until now, the male partner fills out a special form in which he is asked to declare that the child will be considered his in every respect, as if he were the biological father, including giving the child his family name and paying alimony.
In contrast, sperm banks have not included same-sex female partners in the process at all. Following the change, the consent form will be altered to read: “Consent form: artificial insemination from a sperm donor for couples” using both the male and female versions of the phrase. The form's clauses, which had previously addressed men specifically using gendered male pronouns in Hebrew, will be rephrased to use female pronouns.
A clause will also be added to the form declaring that the joint file at the sperm bank does not constitute official recognition of the female partner who does not give birth to the child as a parent. In order to get their parental status recognized by the state, female couples will be required to petition the court through an adoption order or parental order.
The instructions attached to the new order explain that the justice and welfare ministries recently issued conditions for establishing parental relationships through a court order. Because it involves a judge’s order rather than being enshrined in legislation, applicants have to meet particular conditions set by a team of experts. The justice and welfare ministers accepted the conditions, and the state attorney general approved them.
“One of the conditions for granting a parental order is proof of the couple’s joint intention to be parents,” the instructions state. “This condition can be proven, among other ways, by a declaration form from the couple saying that they have opened a joint file at the sperm bank." In light of this, it reads, the couple should prepare a document signed by both partners in the presence of a sperm bank representative.
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“A mother and a mother are a family. Just like any other family, and there is no reason for them not to receive equal treatment,” Horowitz said. “Until now, lesbian couples who were helped by the sperm bank have not been recognized as couples. The female partner of the woman who received [the sperm donation] didn’t gain official status in the process, not as her partner and not as an expectant mother."
He continued, "From today, female partners of women are now recognized by the system. I have instructed the Health Ministry to issue an order to all sperm banks to act in an egalitarian fashion and to recognize the female partners of women in the sperm donation processes as an expectant parent, just as they would a male partner."