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Israelis' surrogate mothers in Nepal are no laughing matter

The precarious situation of surrogate mothers in Nepal carrying babies for Israelis, as well as the ethical questions surrounding surrogacy in the developing world, should be treated with the utmost seriousness. But what does Israel’s interior minister do? He laughs at them. 

A baby is delivered at the Israeli army’s field hospital in Nepal, April 29, 2015. (Photo by IDF Spokesperson)

A baby is delivered at the Israeli army’s field hospital in Nepal, April 29, 2015. (Photo by IDF Spokesperson)

Saturday’s horrific earthquake in Nepal has dominated the news here in Israel, not only because Nepal is a popular travel destination and around 2,000 Israeli backpackers were airlifted out of the area in recent days, but primarily because of the 100 or so surrogate mothers carrying babies for Israeli gay couples and single parents.

Only heterosexual couples can legally turn to surrogacy in Israel, so homosexual couples look to other countries – and generally look eastward to India and now Nepal, since it is much cheaper than the West.

Israel announced Sunday it had decided to airlift 26 newborn babies born to surrogate mothers (they all arrived by Tuesday), but it is not so clear what will happen to the women there who are still pregnant with surrogate babies, living in the aftermath of the quake.

According to a report in TIME, there are around 100 Indian women in Nepal who are surrogates for Israelis. The Justice Ministry decided to authorize the airlift of only a handful of these women, those past their 35th week of pregnancy. It is unclear how many are expected to arrive, but some reports say four women. The Interior Ministry spokesperson was asked for details and comment, but responded that “the matter is still being worked out so no information is being provided at this time.”

The story has turned the spotlight in the Israeli media on the need to improve the legal ability for surrogacy in Israel and the ethics of seeking surrogacy abroad, since most if not all the surrogate women are poor and acting out of desperation. (An informative article on the matter in Haaretz by Aeyal Gross can be found here).

It raises difficult questions about what it means for an underprivileged woman to rent out her womb. The images of babies being flown into Israel with their relieved dads, while the women who carried and birthed them are left behind, have been especially cruel.

This sad and sensitive situation was exacerbated by Interior Minister Gilad Erdan, who gave an interview on the matter on Channel 10’s evening news show, “London and Kirschenbaum,” on Monday. I subtitled a short clip:

What I find so repugnant about this clip is that Erdan allowed himself to laugh at the joke — that anyone can chuckle about this on live TV. The host, Mordechai Kirschenbaum, was obviously being facetious and critical of Erdan, but what these women have to go through is no laughing matter, and what African refugees are going through should not be the butt of a joke either.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Pedro X

      The disaster in Nepal is very recent. Israel has responded by establishing a 270 medical personnel and a 60 bed field hospital in Nepal. The Hospital has a baby unit and has already delivered its first baby. Israel has lifted many of its citizens back to Israel and 26 infants. Apparently four surrogate mothers who are in their 35th week or more are on their way to Israel. This is a start. A good start.

      One has to assess how many of the other surrogate mothers need help. The primary responsibility for these surrogate mothers are the surrogate agencies in Israel and Nepal and the men and women who have contracted with these agencies to arrange for a Nepalize woman to act as a surrogate. They are responsible to make sure that surrogate mothers have proper accommodation, nutrition and medical care. Once the contract is complete there is no obligation on any party. The surrogates have no right to come live with the prospective parents after the birth of the child. They will remain in Nepal with their families.

      If proper care and support cannot be maintained in Nepal, the agencies and to be parents should approach the Israeli embassy to discuss bringing individual surrogate mothers to Israel to give birth and then returned to their families in their country.

      As far as a question of ethics is concerned, each country on earth can make its own rules or refrain from making laws in respect to surrogacy. In Canada surrogacy is legal but payment for same is illegal. Thailand requires a prospective parent to be married to a Thai person for three years before qualifying to enter a surrogacy contract with a surrogate mother. Nepal, as a sovereign state, has decided not to outlaw surrogacy or payment for surrogacy. This is a matter for Nepal to decide.

      Reply to Comment
    2. lemmens

      How come these babies are israeli? And are they jew by birth? I thought you can only be jew by mother. That the mother has to be jew. And that you can only live in israel as a jew. So are these b abies jews or not?

      Reply to Comment
    3. Ginger Eis

      It is worth noting that the State Of Israel has the LARGEST aid-contingent in Nepal in the entire universe – surpassing that of our good ‘ol USA and Germany.
      Hurrah for the IDF!
      Hurrah for Israel!
      Hurrah for the Jewish People.
      May G-d heal the wounds of the People of Nepal and abide with them throughout their very long, arduous and painful process of recovery.
      More good news:

      1. “Nepalese woman rescued after 5 days under rubble. After painstaking operation, Krishna Khadka extracted by an Israeli-led team of international experts and local soldiers”. http://www.timesofisrael.com/30-april-2015-nepal-earthquake-netanyahu-idf-field-hospital-palestinians/

      2. “Israel pledges to reconstruct an entire village in Nepal”. http://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-pledges-to-reconstruct-an-entire-village-in-nepal/

      Reply to Comment
    4. Ginger Eis

      “The images of babies being flown into Israel with their relieved dads, while the women who carried and birthed them are left behind, have been especially cruel”.

      I agree completely with you on this one. Unfortunately. This is really a heartbreaking, nauseating stuff. The only way I can possibly contribute to help those women now is to tell those “dads” (I hope they read here) to be men enough, team-up and petition the Court to compel the government to fly the women involved into Israel and let them stay. I am not unconvinced that something good will come out of such a move. My calculation is that no honorable Jew would like the bad publicity such a move will generate and, as such, that the government will act before the Court even starts planning a hearing in the legal merits of the case.

      For me personally, the human tragedy involved in this case by far outweighs any and all legal considerations. Bring the mothers to Israel. Now!

      Reply to Comment
    5. Laura

      “This sad and sensitive situation was exasperated by Interior Minister Gilad Erdan”

      *exacerbated

      Poor editing aside, keep up the good reporting on I/P. It’s badly needed.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Ginger Eis

      It is worth noting that the State Of Israel has the LARGEST aid-contingent in Nepal in the entire universe – surpassing that of our good ‘ol USA and Germany.

      Hurrah for the IDF!
      Hurrah for Israel!
      Hurrah for the People of Nepal and the Jewish People.

      May G-d heal the wounds of the People of Nepal and abide with them throughout their very long, arduous and painful process of recovery.

      More good news:

      1. “Nepalese woman rescued after 5 days under rubble. After painstaking operation, Krishna Khadka extracted by an Israeli-led team of international experts and local soldiers”. http://www.timesofisrael.com/30-april-2015-nepal-earthquake-netanyahu-idf-field-hospital-palestinians/

      2. “Israel pledges to reconstruct an entire village in Nepal”, also @ timesofisrael

      Reply to Comment
    7. MK

      I wonder all the lies these gay fathers need to tell their children so as to not look like a heartless, soulless, egocentric persons leaving the poor Nepalese surrogate mothers behind. NEWS UPDATE: Another severe earthquake hit Nepal, probably killing everything they had left. Why didn’t they take the mothers with them to refuge? why do they have to suffer and they gay couples win their trophy?

      Reply to Comment
    8. Surrogacy laws in Nepal are on a nascent stage

      Reply to Comment
    9. Strongly condemn that happened there. they should not treat the babies as an product and leave the mothers as they were not beneficial. No doubt Nepal has now become the most popular destination for surrogacy whether it is for heterosexual or homosexual but the act they take was not acceptable

      Reply to Comment
    10. michael mazur

      Curious about this. I think it would work like this; the homosexual couple would deposit their semen jointly into a glass phial, stopper it, shake it, place it in the chiller, which they then would take with them to Nepal. Only a genetic test would confirm which of them is the father. No ?

      Reply to Comment
      • This disaster has a very bad effect on them..I think everything will be fine if all the laws are helpful

        Reply to Comment