Gay Men, Israel and the Unfair IVF Bias

blog 8As first reported by Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, two-thirds of Israelis who use foreign surrogates are women. And yet, despite these numbers, gay men in the country are being staunchly criticized for their role in surrogacy. For many people – in particular gay men and women – this backlash feels unfair, given how much emphasis is placed on parenting within Israeli culture and faith.

An article, published on July 6, points out that unlike America’s recent Supreme Court decision to allow marriage in all 50 states, Israel focuses more on parenting and less on marriage. This works for many couples who need IVF assistance – as long as the couples are straight. Gay people are forced to go abroad to make their parenting dreams a reality and lately, well, the backlash hasn’t been pretty.

Consider the negative attention given to the couple who rushed to Nepal after the earthquake to save their babies (born to a surrogate). The media had a feeding frenzy, making it sound as if these two men were exploiting a third world woman.

The Truth about IVF and Gay Men in Israel

Only 1/3 of Israel’s IVF services are supported by gay men who are forced to go outside their country for IVF. This entails using the private sector – which is not regulated by the same high government standards. It also means that, unfortunately, couples must use the services of poor women to make their parenting dreams happen. Scrutiny and backlash occurs from these practices, but many gay men feel this is unfair since they don’t have much choice if they want to be parents.

According to Avi Rose, a gay parent of twin preschoolers as well as the writer of the original article, “Israel’s desire to increase its Jewish population at any cost has created a tangle of legal and medical practices that are contradictory and often counterproductive. We spend more on IVF than any other country, yet rates of success are relatively low. Our adoption policies are antiquated; racially and religiously biased in such a way as to be practically ineffective.”

He goes on to write, “Co-parenting arrangements – where unmarried individuals create a child – are based on contracts that are essentially unenforceable, leaving the father vulnerable to the loss of custody rights. Surrogacy has been legal here for almost two decades, but is so limited – to a few heterosexual married couples – that most potential parents are forced to seek services outside our borders. There, in the hands of the private sector, both the providers (mostly poor women) and the purchasers of surrogacy services are exploited, with little real support from government at home or abroad.”

Rose, like many gay couples, is frustrated with this reality. He and his partner were not the only intended parents to use outside services for conception, but for women and non-gay couples, the process is often cheaper and involves almost no public judgment. In their native land of Israel, women are given much low-cost conception assistance, including anonymous sperm and egg donation. He writes, “If they need a surrogate, they can first seek domestic arrangements, and if they must go abroad, they face little public scrutiny afterward – society turns a blind eye, as if they gestated their children on their own.”

Regulation or Blind Eye for Surrogacy Services Abroad?

When carefully regulated supervised locally with government and superior medical facilties, surrogacy can be an effective answer to infertility. Many gay men feel that by refusing to deal with the issue in a manner that is democratic and scrupulous, Israeli society is abandoning its own and other nations’ most vulnerable citizens to a commerce that has few of the controls and core values we claim to espouse.

Final Thoughts from a Gay Perspective

According to Rose, “Israeli society, through its laws, medical practices and social service agencies, needs to become better at helping and regulating the creation of new life. Equitable adoption and co-parenting regulations, along with improved access to local egg/sperm donation and surrogacy, can lessen dependence on the international reproductive trade. Those who must leave the country for the service should be guided by stricter, more protective government involvement. In the interim, we must stop blaming gay men for the problematic morality of surrogacy. As fully participating citizens of Israel we deserve the right to become parents with equal levels of guidance and support.”

More on Avi Rose, an educator and artist, can be found at his website.

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