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

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24 October, 2003


In what circumstances is amniocentesis allowed under halacha?

To explain the details: We did a Nuchal Translucency and Serum test at 12.5 weeks. The base risk for someone of my age was given as 1:330, but when I looked it up in a book it was listed as 1:485 (I'll be 34 when the baby is born). The Nuchal came back ok (1:2788) and then the blood serum came back 5 days later increasing the risk to 1:168 for Down Syndrome. My doctor said the HcG was very high (5, whatever that means). She said that we should go see a genetic counsellor (my protest that I didn't want to do anything like terminate a pregnancy etc basically fell on deaf ears.). So I have made an appointment for early next week when I will be 14.5 weeks.

My question is this: I assume that all the genetic counsellor can suggest is to do an amniocentesis. Is that allowed under halacha? Thank you, and sorry about all those details.


Your test results raise the question of a genetic defect, particularly Down Syndrome. Most rabbanim do not allow abortion in this case. However, an individual question may be asked if a genetic problem is detected.

There are reasons to permit amniocentesis even if you know that you would not abort a fetus with Down Syndrome. The first is the reassurance that you will most likely receive. Even with the elevated numbers, in the majority of cases the fetus is not affected. Still, many women become nervous once the question has been raised and an amniocentesis that would reassure them would be halachically permitted according to many opinions. Even if the results are positive for a genetic defect, the couple can better prepare for the birth of their special child.

Ultimately, the decision is an individual one. Only you and your husband can decide if the knowlege would be helpful or harmful. If you feel it would be helpful, there is halachic basis for permitting amniocentesis. Hoping to hear only good news.

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