Israel has begun evacuating surrogate children and their Israeli parents from Nepal in the wake of the earthquake which has killed almost 4,000 people.
Families of 26 babies born to Nepalese women on behalf of Israeli parents appealed to Jerusalem for assistance, with the first three families arriving in Israel yesterday night.
Israeli law only allows for heterosexual partners to pursue surrogate pregnancy in the country, forcing single people and same-sex partners to go abroad to find surrogate parents.
The Times of Israel reported that the Israeli justice ministry also approved a request to receive four Nepalese surrogate mothers carrying babies for Israeli couples.
Approximately 100 surrogate mothers in Nepal are pregnant with Israeli children, according to the Jerusalem Post. Tel Aviv-based company Tammuz Surrogacy International said its 52 Israeli clients were awaiting evacuation in hotels or the Israeli embassy in Nepal’s capital Kathmandu.
The Israel Defence Forces said an 80-member humanitarian aid delegation would travel to Nepal today and would be joined by around 170 military personnel who will set up field hospitals for those injured in the earthquake. Some 150 Israeli travellers are also believed to be missing.
A bill to allow gay couples to go through surrogacy passed its first reading in the Knesset in October but has yet to be adopted into law.
Surrogacy is illegal for domiciles in Nepal but the country remains a popular destination for foreigners seeking to have babies. The process can cost as little as $6,000 in Nepal compared to up to $150,000 in western countries.
All forms of surrogacy are illegal in many European countries including France, Germany and Italy, while others such as the UK prohibit commercial surrogacy, where the mother is paid for bearing the intended parents’ child.
The death toll from the earthquake currently stands at more than 3,700 and is expected to continue rising. More than 6,500 people were injured by the 7.9 magnitude earthquake which struck about 50 miles outside Kathmandu on Saturday and prompted avalanches on Mount Everest.