Israel’s Attorney General, Yehuda Weinstein, has agreed to allow pregnant women in Nepal, who have contracted with Israelis as surrogates, to fly to Israel until they give birth. The decision came after one of the primary hospitals in Nepal was damaged in Saturday’s earthquake.
According to the proposal, women in their second and third trimesters who are already bound by contract as surrogates to Israelis, will be able to fly to Israel if they choose to. Israel’s Justice Ministry had expressed reservations, worried that bringing the women to Israel could be seen as human trafficking.
At the time of the earthquake there were about 70 Israelis in Nepal, waiting to take about 25 babies home. For gay or infertile couples in Israel looking to hire a surrogate, Nepal has become the country of choice. Since the earthquake, Israeli officials have brought ten newborns to the country, three of them premature infants who needed special care.
“Minister of Interior Gilad Erdan decided that the most important thing was to get those babies here,” Sabine Haddad, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Interior told The Media Line. “Everything there is in chaos, so we will get them here and then handle the bureaucracy.”
She said that in normal times, one of the parents of the newborn must take a DNA test, which is analyzed in Israel. Once the results are confirmed, the baby is given Israeli citizenship. That procedure usually takes about three weeks. Most Israeli prospective parents, often with other family members in tow, spend at least three weeks in Nepal, arriving before the baby is born, and staying until the baby receives Israeli citizenship.
“India closed the gates for gays two years ago, then Thailand,” Doron Mamet-Meged, the founder of Tammuz International Surrogacy. “In Nepal a cabinet decision allows surrogacy if neither the parents is Nepali so that is where we are doing most of our work now.”
Mamet-Meged started the agency after he and his spouse used a surrogate for their child. Since then, he said, his agency has helped hundreds of couples have children via surrogacy. In Nepal, he said, the surrogates, most of whom come from nearby India, earn about $7000, a sum several times the annual income there. During the pregnancy they live in rented housing in Kathmandu with their families, and receive excellent prenatal care. All of the surrogates he uses have already had healthy pregnancies.
“There are many women who want to do it,” he said. “We take very good care of those women and the women raise their standard of living. Many of them ask to be a surrogate more than once.”
The total cost in Nepal, he says, is about $14,000, similar to the cost in Israel, and half the cost in the US. In Israel, surrogacy is only open to heterosexual couples who have proven infertility.
Surrogacy is becoming a more common way for Israelis to become parents, says Mina Ulzary, co-founder of the Parenthood Center in Israel.
“Women who want to adopt often have to wait five or six years and then you get a baby who is between one and two years old,” Ulzary told The Media Line. “With surrogacy, you start taking care of the baby from the second it is born.”