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Israeli Supreme Court Rules for Mother on Fertilizing Eggs


An Israeli woman has won the right to attempt to become a mother through in vitro fertilization using a frozen embryo, despite her estranged husband’s objections.

Israel’s Supreme Court, in an unprecedented second appeal before the high court, decided Thursday that eggs and sperm belonging to a now-divorced couple may be fertilized.

Last year, a five-judge panel had ruled in the husband’s favor. The ruling set a precedent with the judges’ decision that the state cannot impose parenthood on men or women.

But the wife, Ruti Nahmani, applied to the then-president of the court, Justice Meir Shamgar, asking for a new appeal before a wider bench, because of the fundamental moral, ethical, religious and legal issues at stake.

This was the first time in Israeli history that an appeal heard by five justices was heard again.

The headline-making case has been proceeding through the courts for more than five years.

Justice Dalia Dorner, who was part of the 7-4 majority when the case was decided this week, wrote that Ruti’s right to motherhood overrided the right of her husband, Danny, not to be a father.

Court President Aharon Barak was among the minority.

Hugging her attorney after the decision was reached, Ruti Nahmani said Rosh Hashanah was going to be her happiest holiday in years.

But in a late twist to the court’s decision, Israel Television’s Second Channel reported Thursday night that the medical institute in California where the Nahmanis’ deposited their eggs and sperm said it would not release them for a surrogate pregnancy without the consent of both parents.

Danny Nahmani was not in court Thursday to hear the decision, and his position in the wake of the ruling was not known.

The couple had married 12 years ago, but remained childless.

After a bout with cancer, Ruti Nahmani had a hysterectomy. The couple decided to attempt in vitro fertilization, and their eggs and sperm were fertilized in an Israeli hospital and stored in a frozen state while they made contact with the American institute.

At that time, surrogate motherhood was not yet legal in Israel — a law has since been enacted to make it legal — but the High Court of Justice backed the couple’s right to have the fertilization done in Israel and the pregnancy abroad.

Danny Nahmani subsequently left his wife and had two daughters with another woman.

Ruti Nahmani, who refuses to divorce, insisted on her right to continue the process even though her husband had withdrawn his consent.

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