Israeli gay couple Tal and Amir were at a hotel in Nepal when an earthquake devastated the country in April 2015.
Standing atop the rubble, the half-dressed men held their three infants, two of whom are twins born eight weeks prematurely. They looked around to see a dozen or more other gay men with newborns—and news cameras all around.
Cell phone coverage cut out just as they called home. Desperate to communicate with family, Tal shoved himself in front of a news camera. Tal is a sign language interpreter. He signed a message to his family: We’re safe. The babies are safe.
Same-sex couples are barred from surrogacy services in Israel. So, when they decided to have kids, Tal and Amir researched options abroad. They settled on a Nepalese agency that arranges surrogates from India for foreign families.
A total of 26 Israeli babies and their dads were evacuated from Nepal after the earthquake.
The images of gay couples with infants in their arms amid the rubble has since been seen worldwide, sparking a debate in Israel about its surrogacy laws and prompting Nepal to join the ever-growing ranks of countries that have banned international surrogacy.
WNYC’s Radiolab interviewed Tal and Amir to tell the fascinating story of their children’s birth. But the hosts learn the new fathers are still plagued by questions about whether they made an ethically good choice. Israel is in the midst of a heated debate on this very issue and they’re in the middle of it, not really sure where they stand.
Do the women actually earn what Tal and Amir thought they did? Where do these women come from? Is becoming a surrogate one of many choices, or is it a choice of last resort?
In short: Is this exploitation?
At the couple’s behest, Radiolab sets out to answer these questions by contacting the surrogates who carried their children. But just as soon as they start, Tal and Amir get a warning message from their surrogacy agency: Revealing these women’s identities could put the women’s lives at risk.
Listen to the episode to hear Tel and Amir’s (very understandable) freak-out and what happens next.