The Price of Israel's Surrogacy Breakthrough

Nehemia Shtrasler
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A guy holds the LGBTQ flag in the southern town of Mitzpeh Ramon during its first Pride Parade, earlier this month.
Nehemia Shtrasler

The initial reaction to the High Court of Justice ruling was great joy and euphoria. “My heart is bursting with excitement,” said Oshri Buzaglo, who for years has been trying, together with his partner, to have a child via a surrogate abroad. But that’s so expensive, he said, “that we’ll need to choose between a child or [buying] a home.” Others called it a historic day, a correction of grave discrimination, a moral and compassionate ruling. Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz declared: “At last, equality.” And it is an important ruling, one that will permit male couples (and single men) to exercise their human right to bring a child into the world with an Israeli surrogate. 

But it didn’t take long for the euphoria to make way for a flood of criticism, turning into a great lament over the bitter fate of the surrogate. The critics claimed that, with all due respect to equality, surrogacy should still be barred to gay men because it involves the unacceptable use of a woman’s body, the monetization of her uterus and the cynical exploitation of disadvantaged women who will agree to become surrogates “out of economic hardship, not altruism.”
What does altruism have to do with it? A surrogate mother should be paid well for her willingness to carry out the divine act of creating life for someone who cannot do so themselves. If she is prohibited from receiving payment, that would be appalling exploitation. All of the other arguments of the opponents of surrogacy also emit a strong smell of condescension. They do not protect disadvantaged women; they harm them. These people do not see them as independent women with common sense, capable of making their own decisions, but as ignorant women, while they themselves, the exalted, know what is good for these women. 

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There is also a ton of hypocrisy here. As if only surrogate mothers are “exploited.” What about the men working construction in the height of summer, who occasionally fall to their deaths? What about the service members, who are paid to risk their lives? The truth is, we all sell something in order to earn our livelihood, whether it is our muscles, our education, our entrepreneurial abilities or our writing skills, so we are all “exploited.” 

A former surrogate mother was interviewed this week, and contrary to all the prevailing social-populist notions she spoke about it being a positive experience, one that “enriched me socially and emotionally.” She said she still keeps in touch with the parents whose child she carried and added, in response to questions, that she did not become emotionally attached to the child during the pregnancy and did not suffer as a result of the separation, because she chose to become a gestational surrogate, out of a desire to help others bring a child into the world – the most humanist thing I have ever heard.

There are also those who say the state should intervene and determine the amount paid to the surrogate, as well as to limit the number of children she can carry and impose all sorts of other restrictions, and add committees and supervisors, according to the usual social-populist formula. But the result of all this sort of intervention will be to lengthen the process, and make it more convoluted and more expensive. And if the state sets a price that is too low, there won’t be enough surrogates, and everyone will lose. 

The right solution is the exact opposite. Instead of disparaging and degrading the surrogates, women who are prepared to take this on should be lavished with praise. And in order to make it efficient and just and not exorbitantly expensive, the market should be allowed to set the price.

What’s needed is a free exchange between demand and supply, that is, between the intended parents and the gestational surrogates. That is how the correct price will be set – a balance to which the parties agree and with which they are comfortable. That is how to fix the discrimination and to ensure the happiness of both sides – without government intervention.

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