Nepal’s Supreme Court has issued an injunction to stop women from carrying surrogate pregnancies, depriving Israel same-sex couples of the option to begin the pregnancies there.
The injunction, issued this week, came as the court will rule on a petition to ban the process outright in Nepal. The petition argues that surrogacy exploits poor women’s bodies, according to Haaretz. The court must respond to the petition within 15 days.
Israel bans surrogate pregnancies within Israel for same-sex couples, causing many to turn to surrogacy in foreign countries. Nepal has emerged as a relatively affordable option for the process, especially as India and Thailand have banned surrogacy.
The ruling will not affect couples already in the midst of surrogate pregnancies, but it will bar couples from beginning them. The Center for Surrogacy-Israel estimates that some 100 Israeli couples begin the process in Nepal each year.
The Himalayan nation’s status as a key destination for Israeli would-be parents was spotlighted when the massive earthquake struck, forcing many to rescue children and surrogate mothers from the danger zone.
The decision may not be final, however.
The Supreme Court ordered the government to respond to the petition within 15 days. According to a translation of the decision sent to Israeli surrogacy agencies, the government was asked to reply to a long list of questions, mostly related to the rights of the parties involved. Inter alia, the court wants to know what rights the future parents have, what steps are taken to ensure the surrogate mother isn’t harmed, what rights and benefits she has, what citizenship the child has, under what conditions the child can be taken to another country, and what responsibilities the surrogacy agencies have.
Attorney Dana Magdassi, owner of the Lotus surrogacy agency, which works in Nepal, said the court’s intervention could actually be beneficial.
“Our attorneys are very optimistic,” she said. “They think the decision asks for good details; it sounds as if the judge truly wants to hear. The questions the judge asks are relevant and legitimate questions – what happens regarding the child’s rights, the woman’s rights; who makes sure the woman is paid.” Thus if the court ultimately rejects the petition, Magdassi said, its ruling could expand on the government’s decision in positive ways.
“At the minute, we won’t take any new customers until it becomes clear what exactly can be done,” she added. “With regard to impending births, I don’t think this has any significance. You can’t stop births.
“When we did the procedure in India, the moment a decision was made that you needed a medical visa to undergo it in India, they let people who weren’t entitled to medical visas enter India to finish the process for a period of 10 months,” Magdassi continued. “The Indians also understood that it’s impossible to say ‘you can’t enter’; babies are born, but you can’t take them out. Nobody will come and take the children or say these children can’t go back with the parents. I’m optimistic that in the end, the court will reject the petition.”
Doron Mamet, who owns the Tammuz surrogacy agency, which also works in Nepal, rejected the petition’s claim that the surrogate mothers are exploited.
“These are the normal demagogic statements of people who are trying by every means possible to stop surrogacies; they aren’t based on any truth,” he said. “The surrogate mothers receive enormous sums relative to their earning ability in those countries. All the surrogate mothers come of their own free choice, after the agreement with them has been examined in depth.”
Mamet added that with surrogacy opportunities overseas being closed off, it’s vital to pass a proposed surrogacy law that would let same-sex couples and single people use surrogates here in Israel. The law, spearheaded by former Health Minister Yael German (Yesh Atid), passed its first reading in the last Knesset, but hasn’t yet advanced in the current one.