An Israeli Boeing-747 returned from Nepal to Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport on Tuesday afternoon, and among its 229 passengers were 15 Israeli babies, all born within the past six weeks to surrogate mothers in Nepal.
Some of the babies were with their Israeli parents and others were cared for by Israeli passengers. None of the surrogate mothers were allowed to travel.
The infants’ arrival completed the evacuation of 26 surrogate Israeli babies from Nepal, where a devastating earthquake on Saturday killed more than 4,000. The rescue process, coupled with widely published photos of the newborns being cradled by Israeli medics on the Tel Aviv tarmac, has thrust Israel’s reliance on Nepalese surrogates into the spotlight, revealing a little known link between Nepal and Israel and starting a debate here about the ethics of international surrogacy. . . .
Only heterosexual couples can easily employ surrogate mothers in Israel. Gay couples and single parents tend to look abroad to bear children with surrogates. For many years, India — where costs are low but the standard of medical care is generally high — was the preferred surrogacy option for Israelis, but a change to the law there in 2013 prevented gay men and couples who had been married for less than two years from engaging surrogate mothers. The shift in the law caught many Israelis midway through the surrogacy process. The Indian women traveled to Nepal to give birth and the Israeli surrogacy agencies then switched their operations from India to Nepal. . . .
Many Asian and European countries ban commercial surrogacy, and it can cost up to $150,000 in the U.S. and Canada but only $30,000 in Nepal. . . .