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Dead 11 years, soon to be a father

After a protracted legal battle, the frozen sperm of a slain IDF soldier is about to bear fruit
Illustrative image of a pregnancy (photo credit: Shutterstock)
Illustrative image of a pregnancy (photo credit: Shutterstock)

This week, we expect the world’s fourth birth of a child born from the genetic material of a parent who died several years before, leaving behind the sperm or embryo to conceive a child in a Biological Will™.

This event is not just a birth, but a triple delivery. It is the birth of the first offspring of soldier Keivan Cohen, who was killed in 2002 in military operations in Gaza. On the philosophical level, it is the fruition of the idea of ​​Biological Will I initiated in 2001 and the dawn of a new technological world.

Rachel Cohen, Kevin’s mother, turned to me immediately after her son’s death. Keivan’s death was the first time that my vision had become a grim reality. I struggled for years with Israel’s security establishment, who I only asked to allow me to inform soldiers that they can preserve their seed in case of loss of reproductive capacity or life.

But then came Rachel Cohen, a bereaved mother, who I knew I could help. I could not bring back her fallen son, but I could help fulfill his last wish to conceive a child from his seed. This was the first time I saw the tremendous pain of the worst kind death, loss of a young person. I felt that there is nothing more dignified than fulfilling the legacy of the deceased.

Eleven years ago, I accompanied Keivan’s bereaved parents. We endured countless crises in fulfilling Keivan’s wish to father a child. I knew I could expect a frontal attack, socially, legally and emotionally. The Israeli public was not ready for this. We were attacked for bringing a child who would grow up in the shadow of his father. We were attacked on the absoluteness of certainty of Keivan’s will to father children after death.

The Attorney General objected. He issued guidelines forbidding the move. The Chief of Staff and the Defense Minister refused to deal with this. Ministry of Defense rehabilitation workers announced that it will never happen. Everyone was against us, except one other bereaved family – the Bergers. They donated their fallen son’s organs when he died in action, but they were not aware that they could donate his sperm and bring his legacy to the world. The Bergers supported my initiative in the way that only someone who has experienced this type of grief could.

The days passed. Keivan’s parents’ hopes rose and fell. For four years, I came and went from the office of the Attorney General, until he consented only on the condition that a young woman would receive Keivan’s sperm donation. She would raise Keivan’s child as her own and bear full responsibility.

We found the woman, the intended mother who was keen on the idea. After several unsuccessful attempts to conceive through anonymous sperm donation, she realized that by accepting Keivan’s sperm, she would gain an entire family for the child she would bear. Her future child will have paternal grandparents, aunts and uncles.

She thought it was a phenomenal solution and gave it everything she had. We went to trial and then the woman could not conceive. Keivan’s parents were heartbroken. I accompanied them through their grief. Despite these crises, we decided to continue fighting. We found another woman, but Rachel was short of faith. In retrospect, she was right to despair.

There were tremendous difficulties. I was so much more than a lawyer. I knew I had to support and encourage them. It’s hard to describe the difficulties we had with the second woman, who wanted so much to be a mother, but had almost no chance of giving birth. The legal system thought that after two legal processes with intended mothers who didn’t easily conceive, we would concede defeat.

I will not deny that despair engulfed me as well. Rachel’s pain and grief were limitless. I went forward. My fight against bureaucracy in court bore fruit. After nine years, with the second intended mother, we began the most difficult journey of all. The pregnancy was difficult to conceive, but nine months ago, pregnancy was achieved.

Rachel was born again. Cries of joy pierced the ceiling. Now, a few days before birth, after 11 years of exhausting struggle, sore feelings, fears, intense pain, but faith and determination. I’m beginning to show signs of happiness as if I myself was giving birth. We shattered the glass ceiling and enabled the world’s fourth child to be born in this extraordinary way. We dismantled all the stigmas, defused objections and changed the position of the state. Just two weeks ago, the Attorney General changed his decision and agreed that there is room to accept the position of the parents of the deceased. What a relief.

When I set out in 2001, no one believed in my way. I return today from the battlefield exhausted but happier, knowing that life, in all its manifestations, is continually developing, culminating in the formation of a new life. This is my legacy and it is humanity’s birthright.

About the Author
Irit Rosenblum identified a critical gap in law and human rights-the family. She broke new ground by pioneering the development of family human rights law in Israel and globally. She founded New Family in 1998 to practice her SocioLegal philosophy of the new family in which every individual has an inalienable right to establish a family and to exercise equal rights within it regardless of gender, religion, nationality, sexual orientation and status. Rosenblum drafted and promoted 20 family rights laws and wrote 17 Family Rights guides. She is a respected legal innovator and the recipient of distinctions in Israel and abroad.
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