27 Jan 2014 Gay Israeli Parents Trapped Overseas by Obsolete Laws
A Times of Israel report earlier this month highlights the often difficult challenges facing citizens of countries where family formation via surrogacy is prohibited or limited to traditional types of families. Some 65 babies born or about to be born and their gay intended parents are trapped in a kind of legal limbo in Thailand, where the surrogate mothers reside. As Times of Israel reports, the Israeli Interior Ministry has refused to grant the babies Israeli citizenship, citing a conflict with Thai law—even though numerous intended parents from other countries have had children with Thai surrogates and returned to their home countries with no difficulty.
The Israeli Interior Ministry published the following statement regarding to the legal conflict, Times of Israel reports:
“According to Thai law, the babies are Thai citizens. The position of the authorities in Thailand, which was given to Israel in an official notice, is that mothers in Thailand who give birth to babies have full parental rights over those children, including custody.”
The [Israeli] Foreign Ministry issued a notice and a travel warning to that effect at the end of December 2013, the statement said.
Under Thai law, which allows surrogacy, both the Thai surrogate and the non-Thai father are registered as the child’s parents; the surrogate then executes a legal waiver of her parental rights. The non-Thai father then applies for citizenship for the child in the father’s home country.
Because Israel suffers from a shortage of surrogates, many Israeli intended parents have traveled abroad to have children via surrogacy. The barriers are even higher for Israeli intended parents who are gay: under Israeli law, homosexuals may not initiate surrogacy in Israel.
The issue has caught the attention of LGBT activists in Israel and elsewhere. A Facebook page created by a group called “Help Us Bring the Babies Home” has garnered some 14,000 “likes.” “[S]ome of the Israeli parents have had to extend their visa in Thailand while dealing with the issue and that some of the newborns were without proper health care and insurance,” the Times reports. The untenable situation in which the Israel parents find themselves highlights both the lengths to which people will go in order to have children and the dire consequences that result from discriminatory and outdated laws governing family formation and assisted reproductive technology. Health Minister Yael German has announced plans to make surrogacy available to gay and lesbian Israelis. Let’s hope it happens in time to prevent more families from experiencing the financial and emotional hardships these Israeli parents are undergoing.