I too was shocked by the story of dozens of babies and their Israeli fathers stuck in Nepal, helplessly awaiting rescue and a safe haven after the massive earthquake there. This awful story succeeded in eliciting feelings of identification and solidarity, and the articles and social media posts on the matter have been moving. But I must point out an additional difficult aspect of this story, which also comes to light through these same articles and posts.
- Nepal earthquake updates / Some 200 Israelis preparing to return home on special flight
- Israel ramping up rescue efforts in Nepal
- Israel must remove the discrimination inherent in its surrogacy law
- As Nepal earthquake death toll rises, families of missing young Israelis search, wait, and worry
- Israel must abolish discrimination in access to surrogacy
- Nepalese caregivers in Israel frantic to hear from families back home
- Israel's interior minister: We should let in pregnant surrogate Nepalese mothers
- It takes an earthquake in Nepal to talk about surrogacy in Israel
I searched and searched, and searched again, for any mention of the women who had until just recently carried these 24 babies for nine months, and I must admit to my surprise that I did not find a single reference to them. I saw a great deal of concern for the evacuation of the fathers and their babies from the area for fear of aftershocks, extreme concern for the resolution of the bureaucratic aspects of bringing the babies home from Nepal, and broad calls to expedite the paternity testing. But I did not see a single written word, neither in the media nor in the posts of associations and activists promoting surrogacy, regarding the fate of the surrogate mothers themselves.
How can it be that none of the human interest stories or compassion-filled posts mentioned these women, who came from a difficult socioeconomic background, some from Nepal and some from other poverty-stricken areas of Asia just to rent their wombs (not sell their ova, since the fathers generally prefer European genetic material)? Who now, like the babies they’ve just had, are also stuck in the disaster zone?
I know I may sound overly worked up about this issue, which is complex, painful, and touches our most personal and humane places as a society. But the attitude toward these women, or more accurately, the lack of one, in the midst of the earthquake story sheds light on exactly what’s problematic about surrogacy: The surrogate mothers have become a commodity, yet another product to be bought on the open market. Or to be more precise, these women, their wombs and their time have become commodities for Israeli men. Thus, without much deep or serious thought and almost without noticing, we have allowed capitalism to expand to include the bodies of numerous disadvantaged women.
I support the right of gays and others in the LGBT community, to which I belong, to have children and build families in Israel. I support broadening our rights and struggling determinedly to achieve them. I support the right to raise children, to get state recognition for our families, to marry, adopt and establish families that aren’t necessarily made up of a man and a woman.
But I don’t think that these rights ought to be achieved at the expense of other human beings. Because then our struggle goes from being the most just in the world to being one that creates another injustice. And I think there is enough injustice in the world as it is.
The writer is a social activist.