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A Decade in the Making, Egg Donation Bill Passes Knesset

The Knesset passed a revolutionary egg donor law this week, easing the path for women to use egg donations from Israeli women. As Sisterhood editor Gabi Birkner wrote in a recent Wall Street Journal article, egg donation in Israel has been a topic of major controversy in Israel, due in large part to rabbinic statements and rulings that have placed considerable obstacles in front of women seeking out egg donations as well as surrogate mothers. The religious issues compounded the many ethical, logistical and economic issues that infertile women face worldwide.

The new law, which had been stalling between Knesset readings for 10 years before it was passed, enables women up to age 54 to receive egg donations, and thus offers tremendous assistance to women who have trouble conceiving. Until now, women seeking egg donors, for the most part, have had to go outside of Israel, at tremendous expense and hassle. The law, which goes into effect in six months, allows Israeli women ages 21-34 to become donors, allows women to begin the process even if they have not been undergoing fertility treatments, and enables the donor to receive several thousand dollars in payment in order to cover missed work days, the same way sperm donors receive compensation. Women can donate eggs up to three times during their lifetime, with a mandated six months’ gap in between donations. They can donate their to no more than three women.

The law also establishes a committee to examine “exceptional” cases, such as a case in which a woman wants to donate eggs to her sister. The committee will also be charged with preventing “egg trafficking”. In addition, a confidential database will be established to keep private, closed records of donor and recipient identities. The purpose of the database is to prevent marriage between close relatives.

The law was greeted with praise — and relief — by women’s groups and health advocates alike. MK Haim Katz, Chair of the Labor, Welfare and Health Committee, who had brought the law to the Knesset following extensive discussions with the Ministry of Health, said, “This is undoubtedly one of the most important pieces of legislation in the area of health that our committee has dealt with.”

Attorney Mira Hibner-Harel, the Legal Adviser in the Ministry of Health, concurred. “A 10-year effort finally paid off.”

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