Israel in surrogate baby row

By Nathan Jeffay, January 23, 2014
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The Israeli government was under heavy criticism from the country’s gay community and its supporters this week as anger rose over its failure to enable dozens of same-sex couples to take their babies home.

Gay couples in Israel are increasingly choosing to have children, often using surrogate mothers overseas. To bring the babies home, parents need passports for them, but 65 babies born in Thailand in recent weeks are without passports and therefore cannot leave the country.

On Wednesday, one dispirited father, Robbie Ilbrich, started a hunger strike outside the home of Interior Minister Gideon Saar, saying that he would refuse to eat until his baby receives a passport. The campaign to issue the passports has received high-profile backing, with supermodel Bar Refaeli weighing in on Facebook. The film star Gila Almagor wrote that every day away from home is causing “irreversible damage to children, parents and families”.

Mr Saar said that Jerusalem had not yet approved passport applications out of concern that Thai authorities could construe doing so as assisting abduction. It fears that Bangkok does not accept the paperwork, signed by surrogates, transferring parenthood to the babies’ progenitors.

But gay activists say that the Israeli government should have processes in place to deal with the issue.

“These are Israeli babies and Israeli parents,” said Gil Kol, spokesman for the main gay organisation in Israel, the Aguda.

Last updated: 4:45pm, January 23 2014