Nepal has become a surrogacy hub.
Nepal’s devastating earthquakes in recent weeks have brought to light its little-known surrogacy industry. Aboard an Boeing 747 repatriating Israeli citizens after the first quake on April 25 (in which an estimated 8,000 people died) were 15 babies born to surrogate mothers there. Eventually 26 babies arrived – and none of the mothers. Another 100 women pregnant with babies for Israeli clients remained behind.
After the May 12 quake, another four babies were evacuated.
In Israel surrogacy for homosexuals and single parents is illegal, so they have turned to surrogacy agencies abroad. India and Thailand had well-developed surrogate-mother networks. But after scandals both countries recently imposed onerous restrictions on overseas clients. So the Indian agencies have moved their clinics to Nepal. Surrogacy is against the law in Nepal, but this only applies to Nepalese citizens. So Indian women have been going to Kathmandu clinics to bear babies for Israeli clients.
An op-ed in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz by left-wing social activist Alon-Lee Green was scathing about how surrogate mothers were being treated.
“How can it be that none of the human interest stories or compassion-filled posts mentioned these women, who came from a difficult socioeconomic background, some from Nepal and some from other poverty-stricken areas of Asia just to rent their wombs (not sell their ova, since the fathers generally prefer European genetic material)? Who now, like the babies they’ve just had, are also stuck in the disaster zone?
“I know I may sound overly worked up about this issue, which is complex, painful, and touches our most personal and humane places as a society. But the attitude toward these women, or more accurately, the lack of one, in the midst of the earthquake story sheds light on exactly what’s problematic about surrogacy: The surrogate mothers have become a commodity, yet another product to be bought on the open market. Or to be more precise, these women, their wombs and their time have become commodities for Israeli men.”
Once the babies have arrived, they face further difficulties. Because their biological mothers are not Jewish (the ova were purchased from the US, South Africa and other countries) they need to undergo conversion. But most rabbinical courts are very reluctant to allow the children of single-sex couples or single parents to convert.
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