Nishmat's Women’s Health and HalachaIn memory of Chaya Mirel bat R' Avraham

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Egg Donation & Surrogate Motherhood


Egg Donation

Egg donation is an artificial reproductive technology where an ovum (egg) is retrieved from one woman (the donor) and fertilized. The resulting embryo is implanted in another woman (the birth mother), who carries the fetus until its birth. As the clinical use of this procedure is a relatively new phenomenon, there is no clear halachic consensus as to whether the status of the child is based on the egg donor, the woman carrying the child, or both. The answer to that question is important in deciding whether to use a Jewish donor (unrelated to either spouse) or a non-Jewish one. There is some non-binding aversion to involving a non Jew in the conception of a Jewish child for spiritual reasons. Furthermore, if the mother is the non-Jewish egg donor, the child might require conversion. On the other hand, with a Jewish donor one would have to worry about preventing the child from later marrying siblings from any side, which is not the case with a non Jewish donor.

In light of the questions involved, some rabbis will avoid the process altogether. Others will permit it if other avenues of fertility treatment have failed. A specific rabbinic question should be asked in all cases.

Additional halachic questions are raised by the sperm donation that is needed for this procedure, and by artificial reproductive technology in general. It is best to use a fertility center that is familiar with these issues (note that the physician should not be giving the halachic answers), or at the very least is sensitive to these concerns and willing to modify routine practices to accommodate them.

Surrogate Motherhood

In surrogate motherhood, the ovum is donated by one woman (the genetic mother) and carried by another woman (the birth mother). As the clinical use of surrogate motherhood is a relatively new phenomenon, there is not yet halachic consensus on this procedure. The purpose of this article is only to review the issues involved. Each case MUST be discussed individually with a rabbi well versed in this area of halacha.

In this technique, the sperm of one woman's husband are indirectly (via mechanical placement of the embryo in the uterus after fertilization in the laboratory) placed in the body of another woman. This raises overtones of adultery and for this reason some authorities would prohibit the procedure entirely. Others, in light of the fact that Torah law permits a man to have more than one wife, would permit this method to couples faced with the anguish of infertility without other solutions. The surrogate mother must be single, however, because if she is married, receiving the child of another man is close to the prohibition of adultery. Similarly, the surrogate mother must not be closely related to either spouse, as this would raise questions of incest.

An additional question in cases of surrogate motherhood is whether the halachic status of the child is based on the genetic mother, the birth mother, or both. The answer is important in deciding whether to use a Jewish surrogate mother (single and unrelated to either spouse) or a non-Jewish one. There is some non-binding aversion to having a non-Jew carry a Jewish child for spiritual reasons. Furthermore, if surrogate is halachically considered to be the mother, the child would require conversion. On the other hand, with a Jewish surrogate one would have to worry about preventing the child from later marrying siblings from any side, which is not the case if the child is converted.

Additional halachic questions are raised by the sperm donation that is needed for this procedure, and by artificial reproductive technology in general. It is best to use a fertility center that is familiar with these issues (note that the physician should not be giving the halachic answers), or at the very least is sensitive to these concerns and willing to modify routine practices to accommodate them.


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