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What is the Jewish view on In Vitro Fertilization?

by Mrs. Dinka Kumer

  

Library » Life Cycle » Birth » Reproductive Issues | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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Certainly every couple hopes to conceive easily and naturally. For those who cannot, recent medical advances in fertility are a true blessing for thousands of families. These discoveries are truly remarkable, allowing couples to have children when just one generation ago such a possibility would have been 'inconceivable'.


However, IVF or any medically assisted pregnancy may have significant Jewish legal rulings. The situations arising today in the realm of conception have no medical precedence, and yet the centuries old Torah has much to say about the spiritual ramifications of these procedures.


Regarding your particular query, there are different Halachic opinions, which are presented below in three general rulings:


1. IVF may not be permitted since it violates Torah prohibitions, in particular the prohibition1 against “wasting” of a man’s seed.2


2. IVF may be permitted, but all physical components (sperm, eggs, serums, uterus, related medications, etc.) must be only of the [halahically married] couple themselves.3 Also, the entire fertilization process must be strictly supervised by a trained and third party Jewish person, ensuring that no other person's components are added to the fertilization. [The husband and wife are not in an objectively emotional state to be capable of supervising, and the medical staff is also not impartial to the procedure's success. Therefore, a third party must be selected who has undergone training and who will not be compensated more or less depending on the procedure’s outcome. These Jewish 'supervisors' can be found in many places across the globe.4


The situations arising today in the realm of conception have no medical precedence, and yet the centuries old Torah has much to say about the spiritual ramifications of these procedures
3. IVF may be permitted even though physical components (semen or eggs) used are from non-Jewish sources. By using a non-Jewish man’s semen, if a boy is born, he is not a Kohen or a Levite (even if the husband is, this doesn’t pass to his son since he is not the biological father); if a girl is born, she may not marry a Kohen (because her biological father in non-Jewish). By using a non-Jewish woman’s eggs, the resulting child will have two mothers: one who provided the genetic material (the non-Jewish egg donor), and one who is the birth mother (the Jewish mother who carried the pregnancy).5 The dual mother situation renders the child part Jewish and part non-Jewish. In such a case, the child must therefore be properly converted.6


So with these three very different rulings, what is a couple supposed to do? They should consult their particular Rabbi (or his Rabbi who may be more expert in this field) and follow the specific ruling given.


The Lubavitcher Rebbe quoted the Previous Rebbe as saying that “a person should actually give up his or her whole existence in order to have children.”


May we all merit the blessing of children—many times over—in sanctity and joy!


The above information was provided by Rabbi Yosef Y. Feigelstock, Chief Rabbi of Beunos Aires, Argentina, and acclaimed expert in the halachic rulings and nuances of IVF and medically assisted pregnancy. Rabbi Feigelstock’s ruling appears as No. 2 above.


Related articles on this topic may be found on www.jlaw.com.7

Footnotes

  • 1. The sin of Er and Onen, Genesis 38:9-10. Abridged Code of Jewish Law (“Kitzur”) 151.
  • 2. This is the halachic opinion of Rabbi Yehudah Kalman Marlow of blessed memory, senior member of the rabbinical court of Crown Heights, Brooklyn NY.
  • 3. Semen is collected in accordance with the laws of family purity, and via a sterilized collector following intercourse.
  • 4. Machon Puah in Israel can help locate such supervisors: www.puah.org.il.
  • 5. This same ruling applies in the case of a Jewish mother’s fertilized egg being carried by a non-Jewish surrogate mother. The child also has two mothers and must be converted.
  • 6. This is the ruling by Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, former Sephardic chief Rabbi of Israel, and Rabbi of the 'Machon Puah' Fertility Institute in Israel.
  • 7. We reference this site as a public service. AskMoses.com does not necessarily endorse opinions espoused on other sites.

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RELATED CATEGORIES

Intimacy » Reproductive Issues

Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Halachic
Pertaining to Jewish Law.
Levite
A descendant of Levi, son of Jacob. The Levites were the teachers and spiritual leaders in the Land of Israel. They had various responsibilities in the Holy Temple, including choir and orchestral duties.
Rebbe
A Chassidic master. A saintly person who inspires followers to increase their spiritual awareness.
Lubavitcher
One who follows the teachings of the Chassidic group which was formerly based in the Belarus village of Lubavitch. Today, the movement is based in Brooklyn, New York with branches worldwide. The Lubavitch movement is also widely known as "Chabad."