Israeli Feminists Weigh in on Egg Donation and Surrogacy Laws

Posted by Emily Stehr June 16, 2011
Biopolitical Times
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Israeli feminist organization Isha l’Isha has released a research report on Israel’s Egg Donation Law and a status report/legislative amendment proposal for the Surrogacy Law. Both commentaries offer crucial points of view that are usually not given adequate attention.

Until now, the primary participants in the creation of the Egg Donation Law have been legal, medical and other professionals. Isha l’Isha’s study shows that on key regulatory issues, these points of view are very different from those of the people who will be affected by the law -- the women who provide or receive eggs.

Israeli culture is so consumed with the importance of producing more offspring that arguments focusing on egg recipients often drown out arguments and concerns about the rights and well-being of providers.  Isha calls this “narrow-minded” and argues that it “decreases the gap between a person’s wants and needs.” All the doctors interviewed argued that the risks associated with egg retrieval are minimal and thus that it is unquestionably ethical to perform the procedure on women who don’t themselves need fertility treatments, but instead are motivated by financial gain. Even more troubling, the physicians who oversaw egg retrieval admitted to viewing themselves primarily as doctors for the recipients.

The current report is the culmination of a four-year campaign to bring debates about egg donation into public discourse and relate them to broader issues such as the social and economic relations between the parties, the prevention of human organ trafficking, and the relationship of the medical establishment with patients and the state.

Isha l’Isha’s report on Israel’s 1996 Surrogacy Law takes a hard-line position for prohibiting surrogacy altogether, arguing that the practice is an “objectifying and impersonal use of the surrogate mother’s body.” It also convincingly argues that in the context of Israel’s procreation-centric social atmosphere, mainstreaming surrogacy contracts only strengthens the message that motherhood should be the center of women’s lives, and makes acceptance of infertility even more difficult by heightening social pressure to invest all available resources in attempts to achieve parenthood.

Failing prohibition, Isha l’Isha advocates for substantial changes to the long-standing law, which now only permits surrogacy solicitation by heterosexual couples comprised of fertile men whose female partners can’t become pregnant or can’t (safely) carry a pregnancy. Isha l’Isha would like to see clearly defined rules to enable fair relationships that benefit all participants, including liberalization of payment guidelines to reflect the time invested and degree of risk exposure and physical discomfort involved. They also propose that Israeli citizens not be permitted to take part in any procedure overseas that is not permitted in Israel.

Isha’s work clearly illustrates the important role that civil society has to play in drawing boundaries on marketing bodily products.

Previously on Biopolitical Times: