TEL AVIV, Israel, April 29 (UPI) -- In the wake of the devastating earthquake in Nepal on Saturday that killed more than 4,700, Israel rescued 26 surrogate babies and their new Israeli parents but left their mothers behind.
Gay Israeli couples that can afford overseas surrogacy have increasingly turned to Nepal for children, reported McClatchy. The Israeli government forbids same-sex couples from adopting or turning to surrogacy within Israel, and in the last decade gay Israelis have turned to other countries for surrogacy services.
The arrival of the surrogate infants and their relieved Israeli parents on Tuesday afternoon have drawn criticism within Israel, as none of the mothers coping with the earthquake's aftermath were allowed to travel.
In Israel's Haaretz newspaper, Alon-Lee Green wrote, "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 ... to rent their wombs ... who now, like the babies they've just had, are also stuck in the disaster zone?"
It is estimated an additional 100 Nepalese and Indian women in Nepal are still expecting and waiting for assistance. Israeli Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein said on Monday he would give permission for the most heavily pregnant to be flown to Israel to give birth.
According to Dana Magdassi, the founder of Israeli company Lotus Surrogacy, surrogacy in Nepal could cost as little as a fifth of the price in the U.S., where it can cost up to $150,000.
Nepal has become a destination of choice for gay Israelis since India began to limit surrogacy to heterosexual couples.
The first Israeli baby was born to a surrogate mother in Nepal in January 2014, reported Time Magazine.
To bring a surrogate baby into the world, Lotus Surrogacy collects an egg from a donor in Nepal or a third country, then a sperm from the prospective Israeli parent. The embryo is injected into the womb of the woman in Nepal.
Israel requires the repatriating Israeli parents to send DNA samples from the babies to an Israeli hospital for testing before approving their children's right to Israeli citizenship and passports. But in the earthquake's aftermath many of Lotus Surrogacy's clients have received a fast track to the home country for their new children.