Israeli couples with fertility problems may soon be able to engage a surrogate mother to give birth to their children.
On Monday, the High Court of Justice canceled Health Ministry regulations prohibiting surrogate motherhood.
The ruling came in response to a petition by 26 childless couples. They had argued that the Health Ministry’s position had been adopted without proper authority.
In 1987, after the much-publicized “Baby M” case in the United States, the Health Ministry decided to forbid surrogate motherhood in Israel.
In that case, a surrogate mother attempted, unsuccessfully, to win custody of the child she bore for an American couple.
The Israeli court’s ruling will take effect Jan. 1.
In the meantime, the Health Ministry will draft a law providing guidelines for surrogate motherhood.
Experts estimate that tens of thousands of Israeli couples suffer from Infertility.
Although many benefit from fertility drugs and other conventional fertility treatments, others have no chance of having children. Their only options are adoption or surrogate motherhood.
According to The Jerusalem Post, the proposed law is expected to ban married women, relatives of the biological mother and non-Israelis from serving as surrogate mothers.
The children couples said they were thrilled by the ruling, but reaction in other spheres has been mixed.
“We very much support this decision,” said Carmel Eitan, spokeswoman of the Na’amat women’s organization. “We feel that the problem faced by infertile couples is on the verge of being resolved.”
Referring to another recent government decision to allow nonprofit organizations to assist in adoptions, Eitan said, “This ruling, together with the government’s decision two weeks ago to end the state’s monopoly on adoption, will open a whole new spectrum of possibilities for couples to become parents.”
While acknowledging the obstacles faced by infertile couples, the Israel Women’s Network said it opposes the ruling.
“As a rule, the network opposes the idea of surrogacy,” said Rachel Benziman, the network’s legal adviser.
“We believe that surrogacy diminishes the status of women. It projects the woman as a womb for rent,” she said.
Benziman warned that “the idea of serving as a surrogate will appeal to women who are in dire straits. We are concerned that they will be exploited in the process.”