By Netael Bandel, Lee Yaron, and Johnathan Lis | Haaretz | February 28, 2020
For years, LGBTQ rights advocates in Israel have been fighting to broaden surrogacy rights. On February 20th, the High Court of Justice ruled that an existing bill prohibiting single men and gay couples from accessing surrogacy was unconstitutional. As this article explains, the state now has one year to amend the law.
Responsible Surrogacy is a web-based project created by a group of volunteers in Israel. It provides people considering surrogacy with information on the ethical and practical aspects of an arrangement. The information is available in Hebrew and English.
The site is facilitated by intended parents who believe “the ethical responsibility for the surrogacy process lies with the intended parents.” From the About page:
Surrogacy is a difficult process for all involved in many aspects, and it is often initiated after much hardship for the intended parents. For those in need of it, surrogacy is commonly the last hope to raise a family. They reach it exhausted but with a sense of purpose. Perhaps that is why in many cases we have encountered upon building this information center there was a tendency of intended parents to neglect one of the most important points – on the other side of this process is a person.
The website functions like a database, providing information on issues related to the health and well-being of gestational mothers, including the fairness of the contract, monetary and legal considerations, and the woman’s relationship with the intended parents.
The site’s creators believe these – and other – aspects should be considered irrespective of where an arrangement is formed, but intended parents must also seek current and accurate country-specific information for guidance.
This long article is well worth the read. It follows a group of gestational mothers in India, providing unusually deep insights into their lives, the contexts that frame their decisions, and their experiences within surrogacy arrangements and after. It also features conversations with the clinics and intended parents that hire gestational mothers, and touches upon the controversial effort to ban the practice in India.
Critics say it is unlikely that banning foreign surrogacy clients will protect poor Indian women or end the practice. For one thing, surrogacy remains legal for heterosexual Indian couples. For another, transnational surrogacy is notorious for its elaborate work-arounds. When the Indian home ministry abruptly banned gay foreign surrogacy clients in 2012, Indian fertility clinics shipped Indian surrogates across the border to Nepal. When Nepal also banned transnational surrogacy in 2015, as did Thailand, industry insiders told me they believed that Indian surrogates were being rerouted to African countries instead. They also said that the ban will merely drive the practice underground.
This article follows the surrogacy relationship between Israel and Nepal, with a focus on Nepal after the 2015 earthquake. It describes the Israeli government’s evacuation of (Israeli) intended parents and their children, as well as resulting international criticism at leaving behind the gestational mothers that gave birth to the newborns.
The article also questions current law in Israel, which only allows heterosexual couples to use surrogacy in the country.
Birthstory is a collaboration with the radio show and podcast Israel Story, It traces the journey of a gay couple from Israel that travel to Nepal to pick up their surrogacy-delivered children. While there, Nepal is hit by a devastating earthquake, resulting in the controversial decision by the Israeli government to evacuate its citizens – and their children – but leave behind the gestational mothers. The story follows the couple home, their efforts to contact the (two) gestational mothers, and their reactions on hearing how the women have been treated by the agency in between.