Thorny custody case could set precedent for disabled parents

Xavier Symons
18 May 2013
Reproduced with Permission

A complex custody dispute has come before an Israeli court, raising questions about the limits of legal parenthood as well as the rights of parents with disabilities. A disabled woman is taking state social services to court after being denied custody of a child she had conceived by surrogacy.

In 2009 wheelchair-bound Ora Mor Yosef organised the insemination of a volunteer surrogate mother with sperm from an Israeli father. Mor Yosef's intention was to take custody of the child once born. However, when the surrogate gave birth to healthy girl, Jewish social security services immediately took custody of the child on the grounds that Mor Yosef was not a legal parent. The child was handed over to adoption services.

Mor Yosef appealed to the Israeli High Court of Justice, which has halted the adoption procedures until the end of a court case assessing the woman's rights to raise the child.

According to the woman's attorneys, the seizing of the child from the surrogate mother is due, in large part, to Mor Yosef's perceived inability to care for a child due to her disability. Mor Yosef has muscular dystrophy.

However, she insists that her disability does not prevent her from leading a full life. If granted custody, Mor Yosef will seek out the adaptive tools and assistance she needs to help make certain the healthy little girl would enjoy "the best possible upbringing."