Israel’s high court opens the way for same-sex couples to have children via surrogacy

Israel's high court

A decision by Israel’s high court Sunday paved the way for same-sex couples to have children through surrogacy, capping a decade-old legal battle in what activist groups hailed as a major advance for LGBTQ rights in Israel.

Restrictions on surrogacy for same-sex couples and single fathers in Israel must be lifted within six months, Israel’s high court ruled, giving authorities time to prepare for the change while making clear that it is a definitive one.Israel's high court

“We won! And now it’s final,” the petitioners said in a statement, the Times of Israel reported. “This is a big step toward equality, not only for LGBT in Israel, but for everyone in Israel.”

Surrogacy was already permitted for heterosexual couples and single women. The law excluded same-sex couples, however, and some who couldn’t have kids with surrogate mothers in Israel turned to surrogates overseas.

The legal fight to widen access to surrogacy in Israel has stretched on since 2010, when a male same-sex couple first appealed to the court to overturn restrictions. Their first petition was unsuccessful, but they followed it with a new one in 2015 along with LGBTQ rights groups. A law passed in 2018 extended eligibility for surrogacy to single women, but it sparked protests because LGBTQ people were left out.

Israel’s high court ruled in February 2020 that the restrictions against gay couples “disproportionately harmed the right to equality and the right to parenthood of these groups and are illegal.” But it left them intact for up to a year, setting a March 2021 deadline for Israel’s parliament to change the law.

The deadline was later extended to September, but the government last week asked the court to decide on the issue because amending the law would be “unfeasible” in the current political situation, according to the Times of Israel.

In the year since the supreme court ruling, ultra-Orthodox lawmakers blocked a proposal to expand surrogacy access, according to Agence France-Presse. And Israel’s new governing coalition, which took power last month and holds only a slim majority, consists of an eclectic mix of parties that span the political spectrum — and diverge on LGBTQ issues. The Islamist Ra’am party opposes gay rights, while Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz — a member of a leftist party in the coalition — is openly gay.

Horowitz hailed the ruling on Twitter, writing that “discrimination against same-sex couples and single fathers has come to an end.” He said his ministry is preparing to uphold the ruling.

WashongtonPost.com, July 11, 2021, by Claire Parker

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The State Department reverses a policy that denied citizenship to some babies born abroad to same-sex parents.

citizenship babies

In a victory for same-sex couples, the State Department on Tuesday said it would grant U.S. citizenship to babies born abroad to married couples with at least one American parent — no matter which parent had biological connection to the child.

The new policy effectively guarantees that American and binational couples who use assisted reproductive technology to give birth overseas — such as surrogates or sperm donations — can pass along citizenship to their children.citizenship babies

Earlier rules had left couples like Allison Blixt and Stefania Zaccari in a precarious — and often unexpected — legal situation.

Ms. Blixt, who is American, and Ms. Zaccari, who is Italian, sued the State Department after their older son, Lucas, was denied citizenship. Lucas was conceived and carried to birth by Ms. Zaccari, while his younger brother, who was conceived and carried by his American mother, was given U.S. citizenship when he was born.

“We are relieved and thankful that our fight for our family to be recognized by the government has finally ended,” Ms. Blixt said on Tuesday in a statement released by Immigration Equality, which was advocating on behalf of same-sex families. “Lucas, who made me a mother, will finally be treated as my son and recognized as American, as his brother always has been.”

The State Department said in a statement that it could not estimate how many couples the new guidance would affect. Lawsuits filed against the State Department during the Trump administration are pending, one official said, but the guidance issued on Tuesday may soon render the litigation moot.

Previously, the State Department, based on an interpretation of 1950s immigration law, required a child born abroad to have a biological connection to an American parent in order to receive citizenship at birth.

The emphasis on biology drew scrutiny in particular for its impact on same-sex couples, who are more likely to use artificial reproductive technology.

In several cases, same-sex couples sued the State Department after their child was not recognized as a U.S. citizen.

In one stark example, the daughter of a married gay couple was denied citizenship, even though both of her fathers are American citizens. In that case, one of the fathers is an American citizen by birth, born and raised in the United States. His husband was born in Britain to an American mother. Their daughter, who was born abroad to a surrogate using a donor egg and sperm from her British-born father, did not qualify for citizenship at birth.

NYTimes.com, May 18, 2021 by Lara Jakes and Sarah Mervosh

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Governor Cuomo Announces Gestational Surrogacy Now Legal in New York State

legal surrogacy in New York

2020 State of the State Proposal Signed into Law Last Year Takes Effect

Law Establishes Criteria for Gestational Surrogacy Agreements, Creates a Surrogates’ Bill of Rights, and Streamlines the “Second Parent Adoption” Process 

The Department of Health Has Posted Guidance for Gestational Surrogacy Here and Information on Regulations Herelegal surrogacy in New York

 

 

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced New York’s Gestational Surrogacy Law is now in effect, delivering help to LGBTQ+ couples and couples struggling with fertility who are trying to start families of their own. Originally proposed as part of the Governor’s 2020 State of the State Agenda and signed into law as part of the State Budget, the law officially legalizes gestational surrogacy in New York State. Prior to the law’s enactment, the practice was illegal in New York State, and gestational surrogacy agreements were unenforceable and considered not legally binding.  

“For far too long, LGBTQ+ New Yorkers and New Yorkers struggling with fertility were denied the opportunity to start a family because of arbitrary and archaic laws and I couldn’t be prouder of the way New York came together to say we won’t stand for this any longer,” Governor Cuomo said. “New York is a loving state and were proud to lead the charge for fairness and equality last year. With this law now in effect, no longer will anyone will be blocked from the joys of starting a family and raising children simply because of who they are.”

In addition to lifting the previous ban on gestational surrogacy, the law:

  • Establishes legal criteria for gestational surrogacy agreements that provide the strongest protections in the nation for parents and surrogates, ensuring all parties provide informed consent at every step of the process;
  • Creates a Surrogates’ Bill of Rights, to ensure the unfettered right of surrogates to make their own healthcare decisions, including whether to terminate or continue a pregnancy, and that surrogates have access to comprehensive health insurance and independent legal counsel of their choosing, all paid for by the intended parents; and
  • Creates a streamlined process for establishing parenthood when one of the individuals is a non-biological parent, a process known as “second parent adoption.”

Governor Cuomo has long championed the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals and has sought to ensure that all New Yorkers have equal ability to start and raise families in this State. Gestational surrogacy provides same-sex couples and people struggling with fertility the ability to conceive a child with the help of medical advances in assisted reproduction. 

The legal process known as “Second Parent Adoption” previously presented many antiquated barriers to individuals, particularly LGBTQ+ couples, seeking to adopt their partner’s biological child. Governor Cuomo’s legislation simplified and streamlined this process by instead requiring a single visit to court to recognize legal parenthood while the child is in utero.

The Department of Health has posted guidance here with surrogates’ bill of rights, fact sheets, and a license portal. Information on regulations can be found here.  

Commissioner of the New York State Department of Health Dr. Howard Zucker said, “From legalizing gay marriage to this surrogacy law taking effect today, under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, New York has done more than any other state to expand the rights of LGBTQ+ people. In the midst of a global pandemic that continues to claim lives throughout the country, it’s important to remember the truly important things in our lives, especially our families and children. I wish love and happiness to all the people who will take advantage of this law today and in coming years to create families of their own.”

Senator Brad Hoylman said, “My husband and I had our two daughters through surrogacy—but we had to travel 3,000 miles to do it because our home state had banned the practice. Thanks to the Child-Parent Security Act, gestational surrogacy is finally legal in New York State, giving LGBTQ couples and people experiencing infertility the opportunity to build a family through surrogacy here at home. This legislation sets a new gold standard for surrogacy, providing women acting as surrogates with the strongest legal and health protections in the nation while also protecting intended parents and egg donors. We were able to pass this bill because of the strong advocacy of Governor Andrew Cuomo and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who have always prioritized the fight for LGBTQ equality, as well as the legislative leadership of my Democratic colleagues in the Senate and Assembly champion Amy Paulin.” 

Assembly Member Amy Paulin said, “Today, couples with infertility issues and same-sex couples will be able to start their families in New York without facing the logistical and legal obstacles that have impeded them. I had fertility issues when I attempted to get pregnant with my second child, so I am well aware of the pain and suffering that is attached to wanting a child. This law will allow families to avoid much of that pain by giving them the opportunity to have a family in New York and not travel around the country, incurring exorbitant costs simply because they want to be parents. Again, I thank the Governor and my Senate colleague Brad Hoylmanfor making this a reality.” 

Ali Forney Center CEO Alexander Roque said, “Governor Cuomo’s tireless care for, commitment to and centering of LGBTQIA rights is among the most noble commitments to justice and equality for all. Moreover, in doing so, Governor Cuomo is setting a standard for other leaders to follow in protecting and really thinking about and responding to the needs of our movement. As a gay parent who had no coverage or benefits in supporting my family journey, I know firsthand the impact this legislation will have on our families. Governor Cuomo’s fight for our rights will benefit our communities for generations to come.”

RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association Board Member Risa A. Levine said, “I am so thrilled that after decades of having to travel outside of New York to build their families, people suffering from infertility who need the help of a surrogate, can now do so close to home.  I am proud that Governor Cuomo enabled New York State to have the most progressive set of protections for all parties to a surrogacy arrangement in the country.”

Equality New York Board Member Brian Esser said, “Now that the Child-Parent Security Act is in effect, New York has one of the most favorable sets of laws in the country with respect to LGBTQI family formation, making it easier for parents to protect their legal rights regardless of how they build their families.”  

Men Having Babies Executive Director Ron Poole-Dayan said, “Today we believe that New York leapfrogged to have the most comprehensive and ethical surrogacy laws ever drafted, with extensive protections to all involved, legal clarity and a streamlined process for parentage rights, and attention to long term physical and mental health outcomes. We thank Governor Cuomo for his leadership and look forward to working with him on building upon this historic achievement for LGBTQ families.”  

2.16.2021 – From Governor Cuomo’s Office

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Meet the Women Who Become Surrogates

adoption and surrogacy lgbt family planning

New York State will now allow gestational surrogates to carry babies for other parents. Here’s why they do it.

In 1995, Lisa Wippler, having recently retired from the Marines, moved with her husband and two young sons to Oceanside, Calif., and was contemplating her next chapter in life. The answer came while lying in bed one night, reading an article about infertility.new york surrogacy

“I had no idea how many couples out there needed help,” she said. Inspired, she sought out a local support group for women who had served as surrogates to help those who can’t have children on their own start families. “It was this amazing circle of women,” said Ms. Wippler, who is now 49. “All talking about their journeys and their stories.”

Last year, Ms. Wippler — by this point a three-time surrogate herself — was part of a delegation of surrogacy advocates who traveled to Albany, where she had the opportunity to share her story with lawmakers considering whether to legalize the practice in New York State. She was joined by the first woman she carried a child for, in 1996, who spoke with state legislators as well.

“I had never heard her talk so openly about her struggles and the impact this all had on her,” Ms. Wippler said. “I was so proud — it really had an impact on me.”

In her advocacy work, Ms. Wippler said, she has been befuddled to hear the arguments put forward by opponents — some of whom contend the surrogacy industry preys on poor and vulnerable women.

“I’m a retired Marine,” she said. “I can guarantee you no one coerced me.”

Starting Monday, after a protracted battle in the state that garnered star power and attention on both sides, New York joins most other states in the nation in permitting some form of compensated gestational surrogacy — when a woman carries a child, to whom she is not biologically related, for an individual or couple in exchange for a fee. (Only Michigan and Louisiana will continue to criminalize gestational surrogacy, as New York did, but other states still limit surrogacy contracts in some form.)

While the United States remains one of the few countries where gestational surrogacy is legal, and widely practiced, it continues to be a source of heated debate. Often missing from the conversation, however, are perspectives of women like Ms. Wippler — and the varied, sometimes deeply personal, reasons that compel them to become surrogates.

NYTimes.com by david Dodge, February 15, 2021

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Couple Forced to Adopt Their Own Children After a Surrogate Pregnancy

New York surrogacy

Tammy and Jordan Myers will have to adopt their twins after two Michigan judges denied them parental rights because the children had been carried by a surrogate.

The nursery in the home of Jordan and Tammy Myers in Grand Rapids, Mich., is painted in shades of gray, white and midnight blue for the couple’s newborn twins. Their 8-year-old daughter, Corryn, can’t stop talking about how excited she is to finally be a big sister.compensated gestational surrogacy

But before the state of Michigan will recognize the couple as the babies’ legal parents, the Myerses will have to adopt them.

That’s because the babies were not carried by Ms. Myers, and Michigan law does not automatically recognize babies born to surrogates as the legal children of their biological parents. As a result, the birth certificates for the twins, a boy named Eames and a girl named Ellison, list the surrogate and her husband as the parents, not Jordan and Tammy Myers.

Twice, judges have denied their requests to be declared the legal parents of the twins, even though a fertility doctor said in an affidavit that the babies are the couple’s biological children. In separate affidavits, the surrogate and her husband have agreed that the Myerses are the parents of the twins.

The Myerses have started the adoption process, which will entail home visits from a social worker, personal questions about their upbringing and their approach to parenting, and criminal background checks. They said they have already submitted their fingerprints.

Being forced to prove they are fit to adopt their own children is “offensive,” said Mr. Myers, 38.

“We have successfully raised a loving and caring 8-year-old child and that’s not taken into account when you’re going through this process,” he said.

Instead of looking forward to leaving the hospital with the twins, who were born eight weeks premature on Jan. 11, the couple must get reference letters to send to the state. Ms. Myers said they needed “temporary permission” from the surrogate, Lauren Vermilye, to bring the babies home.

NYTimes.com, by Maria Cramer, January 31, 2021

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New surrogacy rules mean single man can live his fatherhood dream in UK

single father surrogacy

A teacher has become one of the first single fathers by choice in the UK after a change in the law to end the restriction of surrogacy services to couples only.

David Watkins, 42, was the first man to become a solo parent through Surrogacy UK, the country’s biggest not-for-profit surrogacy organisation, since the rules were reformed in 2019.single father surrogacysingle father surrogacy

Mr Watkins, who teaches deaf pupils in Southampton, was tired of waiting to find a man who shared his dream of becoming a father. He is now the proud parent to six-month-old Miles, who was conceived using his sperm and a donor egg. The fertilised egg was carried by Faye Spreadbury, 37, who gave birth to Miles in July.

“I am celebrating what I have…”

thetimes.co.uk, January 31, 2021

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State Department no longer fighting in 2 cases involving citizenship of same-sex couples’ children

State Department Citizenship

State Department no longer fighting in 2 cases involving citizenship of same-sex couples’ children

The State Department no longer fighting in 2 cases involving citizenship of same-sex couples’ children.  Two families are celebrating a decision by the U.S. State Department to stop fighting in two cases involving the citizenship of children of same-sex couples.Birthright citizenship

On Monday, the department withdrew its appeal in one case, and decided not to appeal a district-court decision in another, according to a statement released by Lambda Legal, a legal advocacy organization that focuses on the rights of LGBTQ people.

Earlier this year, the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland held that Kessem Kiviti, the daughter of same-sex married couple Roee and Adiel Kiviti, had been a citizen since birth.

Kessen was born in Canada via surrogacy. When her parents — both born in Israel and naturalized citizens — applied for her a passport, the State Department said that she didn’t qualify. They argued that she was only biologically related to Adiel, who had lived in the U.S. for less than five years.

The couple sued, and on June 19, a court held that for the children of married parents, the law required no biological connection to a parent, for the child to be born a citizen.

The State Department appealed, but has now withdrawn it.

NYDailynews.com, by Muri Asuncao, October 28, 2020

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Birthright Citizenship Ordered for Gay Couple’s Child Born Overseas Through Surrogacy

Birthright citizenship

Birthright Citizenship Ordered for Gay Couple’s Child Born Overseas Through Surrogacy

A US district judge in Georgia issued a ruling on August 27 that the daughter of a married gay male couple, conceived through donor insemination from a donated egg with a woman in England serving as gestational surrogate, should be given birthright citizenship as a US citizen and entitled to a passport over the objections of the State Department.UK Supreme Court

The complication in this case is that the spouse whose sperm was used was not a US citizen at the time, though he has since become one through the marriage to his native-born US citizen husband.

If this sounds familiar, it is because the case of Mize v. Pompeo, decided on August 27, presents issues similar to those in Kiviti v. Pompeo, decided June 17 by a federal court in Maryland, which also ordered the State Department to recognize the birthright citizenship of the child of a married gay couple.

This is a recurring problem encountered by married gay male couples who use a foreign surrogate to have their child overseas.

Under the 14th Amendment, all persons born in the US are citizens at birth, regardless of the nationality or citizenship status of their parents — the only exceptions being children born to foreign diplomats stationed in the US or to temporary tourist or business visitors. The citizenship of children born overseas to US citizens is determined by the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

Under the INA, there is a crucial distinction depending on whether the parents are married to each other when the child is born. One provision concerns the overseas children of married US citizens, and a different provision applies if the children are born “out of wedlock.” As interpreted by the State Department, if the parents are married, the child is a birthright citizen so long as it is biologically related to one of them. If the parents are not married, at least one them who is biologically related to the child must be a US citizen who has resided in the US for at least five years.

gaycitynews.com – By Arthur Leonard, September 2, 2020

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The Fight for Fertility Equality

Fertility Equality

A fertility equality movement has formed around the idea that one’s ability to build a family should not be determined by wealth, sexuality, gender or biology.

Fertility Equality – While plenty of New Yorkers have formed families by gestational surrogacy, they almost certainly worked with carriers living elsewhere. Because until early April, paying a surrogate to carry a pregnancy was illegal in New York state.hidden costs queer

The change to the law, which happened quietly in the midst of the state’s effort to contain the coronavirus, capped a decade-long legislative battle and has laid the groundwork for a broader movement in pursuit of what some activists have termed “fertility equality.”

Still in its infancy, this movement envisions a future when the ability to create a family is no longer determined by one’s wealth, sexuality, gender or biology.

“This is about society extending equality to its final and logical conclusion,” said Ron Poole-Dayan, the founder and executive director of Men Having Babies, a New York nonprofit that helps gay men become fathers through surrogacy. “True equality doesn’t stop at marriage. It recognizes the barriers L.G.B.T.s face in forming families and proposes solutions to overcome these obstacles.”

The movement is led mostly by L.B.G.T.Q. people, but its potential to shift how fertility coverage is paid for could have an impact on straight couples who rely on surrogates too.

Mr. Poole-Dayan and others believe infertility should not be defined as a physical condition but a social one. They argue that people — gay, straight, single, married, male, female — are not infertile because their bodies refuse to cooperate with baby making.

Rather, their specific life circumstances, like being a man with a same-sex partner, have rendered them unable to conceive or carry a child to term without medical intervention. A category of “social infertility” would provide those biologically unable to form families with the legal and medical mechanisms to do so.

“We have this idea that infertility is about failing to become pregnant through intercourse, but this is a very hetero-centric viewpoint,” said Catherine Sakimura, the deputy director and family law director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “We must shift our thinking so that the need for assisted reproductive technologies is not a condition, but simply a fact.”

Fertility equality activists are asking, at a minimum, for insurance companies to cover reproductive procedures like sperm retrieval, egg donation and embryo creation for all prospective parents, including gay couples who use surrogates. Ideally, activists would also like to see insurance cover embryo transfers and surrogacy fees. This would include gay men who would transfer benefits directly to their surrogate.

NYTimes.com July 22, 2020 by David Kaufman

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Baby Was Infected With Covid-19 in Utero, Study Reports

Covid-19 in utero

Researchers said the case strongly suggests that Covid-19 can be transmitted in utero. Both the mother and baby have recovered.

Researchers on Tuesday reported strong evidence that the Covid-19 can be transmitted from a pregnant woman to a fetus in utero.Covid-19 in utero

A baby born in a Paris hospital in March to a mother with Covid-19 tested positive for the virus and developed symptoms of inflammation in his brain, said Dr. Daniele De Luca, who led the research team and is chief of the division of pediatrics and neonatal critical care at Paris-Saclay University Hospitals. The baby, now more than 3 months old, recovered without treatment and is “very much improved, almost clinically normal,” Dr. De Luca said, adding that the mother, who needed oxygen during the delivery, is healthy.

Dr. De Luca said the virus appeared to have been transmitted through the placenta of the 23-year-old mother.

Since the pandemic began, there have been isolated cases of newborns who have tested positive for the coronavirus, but there has not been enough evidence to rule out the possibility that the infants became infected by the mother after they were born, experts said. A recently published case in Texas, of a newborn who tested positive for Covid-19 and had mild respiratory symptoms, provided more convincing evidence that transmission of the virus during pregnancy can occur.

In the Paris case, Dr. De Luca said, the team was able to test the placenta, amniotic fluid, cord blood, and the mother’s and baby’s blood.

The testing indicated that “the virus reaches the placenta and replicates there,” Dr. De Luca said. It can then be transmitted to a fetus, which “can get infected and have symptoms similar to adult Covid-19 patients.”

A study of the case was published on Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications.

Dr. Yoel Sadovsky, executive director of Magee-Womens Research Institute at the University of Pittsburgh, who was not involved in the study, said he thought the claim of placental transmission was “fairly convincing.” He said the relatively high levels of the coronavirus found in the placenta and the rising levels of virus in the baby and the evidence of placental inflammation, along with the baby’s symptoms, “are all consistent with SARS-CoV-2 infection.”

Still, Dr. Sadovsky said, it is important to note that cases of possible coronavirus transmission in utero appear to be extremely rare. With other viruses, including Zika and rubella, placental infection and transmission is much more common, he said. With the coronavirus, he said, “we are trying to understand the opposite — what underlies the relative protection of the fetus and the placenta?”

NYTimes.com, July 16, 2020 by Pam Belluck

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