A bizarre trend is taking hold in Israel: the families of fallen soldiers are having their deceased loved ones' sperm harvested, with the hope of that one day the extracted sperm will be used to father a child.
According to Bloomberg, a few dozen children have already been born this way. But there are reportedly hundreds of Israeli women volunteering to carry, and in some cases even help mother, these kids. And the Middle Eastern state's parliament passed preliminary legislation supporting the practice back in March, paving the way for an even more widespread phenomenon.
"We may eventually expand this to the rest of society, but we are starting with the military, because we take people 18 to 21 and we say: 'You have to serve your country by law. If something happens to you, we take good care of you, and if you die, we take good care of your parents and children,'" Zvi Hauser, Israeli parliament member and the bill's sponsor, told Bloomberg. "'We now have the technology so that if you don’t have a child and want to leave one, we can give that to your wife or parents.'"
Some countries have outlawed similar procedures, while US regulation varies between states. But as Bloomberg reports, most US frameworks for similar procedures are reserved for widows, not usually the dead men's parents. In Israel, by contrast, it's the parents of these young men that are fighting for their right to have grandchildren, which has some folks raising their eyebrows.
"It is in a child's best interests to be born to living parents and not in a state of planned orphanhood," Gil Siegal, head of the Center for Medical Law, Bioethics, and Health Policy at Israel's Ono Academic College, told Bloomberg. "My heart goes out to bereaved parents, but the discourse around fertility and birth must start with mother-father-child, not grandmother-grandfather-child."
"When you retrieve sperm from a dead man, you are trying to restore something lost under tragic circumstances," he continued. "It's like erecting a living monument."
Bloomberg reports that like related US laws, Hauser's bill takes the dead men's wishes into consideration — all new male military recruits have to stipulate what they'd like to have happen with their sperm in the event that they die in service.
Still, the life most impacted by such a choice isn't the man's, nor is it that of the surrogate, partner, or even the grandparents. It's that of the child, and while the Israeli government provides financial support to already-living children of soldiers killed on duty, it doesn't look like they intend to do the same for postmortem babies.
"The existing stipend is for lost income from the father," Hauser, whose bill actively denies government assistance, explained to Bloomberg. "When a soldier dies and leaves a child, the state is saying to that child, 'I hurt you, I took your father, and I am compensating you for the loss.' This is different. The child didn’t exist."
READ MORE: Postmortem Sperm Retrieval Is Turning Dead Men Into Fathers [Bloomberg]
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