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In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)

In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)

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Question:

Is a married couple who is unable to concieve permitted to use In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) according to Torah law?

Answer:

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 be permitted, but all physical components (sperm, eggs, serums, uterus, related medications, etc.) must be only of the (halachically married) couple themselves.1 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.2

2. IVF may be permitted even though physical components (semen or eggs) used are from non-Jewish sources. If using a non-Jewish man's semen, a boy born would not be a Kohen or a Levi (because according to genetics and halachah, the mother's husband is not the boy's father), and if girl is born, she can't marry a Kohen (because her 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).3 The dual mother situation renders the child part Jewish and part non-Jewish. In such a case, the child must therefore be properly converted.4

3. IVF may not be permitted since it violates Torah prohibitions, in particular the prohibition5 against "wasting" of a man's seed.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 Buenos Aires, Argentina, and acclaimed expert in the halachic rulings and nuances of IVF and medically assisted pregnancy. Rabbi Feigelstock's ruling appears as No. 1 above.

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

Footnotes
1.

Semen is collected in accordance with the laws of family purity, and via a sterilized collector following intercourse.

2.

Machon Puah in Israel can help locate such supervisors: www.puah.org.il.

3.

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.

4.

This is the ruling by Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, former Sephardic chief Rabbi of Israel, and Rabbi of the 'Machon Puah' Fertility Institute in Israel.

5.

The sin of Er and Onen, Genesis 38:9-10. Abridged Code of Jewish Law ("Kitzur") 151.

6.

This is the halachic opinion of Rabbi Yehudah Kalman Marlow of blessed memory, senior member of the rabbinical court of Crown Heights, Brooklyn NY.

7.

We reference this site as a public service. Chabad.org does not necessarily endorse opinions espoused on other sites.

Mrs. Nechama Dina (Dinka) Kumer, originally from Nashville, Tennessee, is the former executive secretary of Ascent of Safed.
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Michael Petek England January 17, 2016

Naturally fertilized embryos are terminated by the body all the time. True, but this is not homicide, since no human hand is involved. If A does an act which causes B to die, then he commits homicide, as long as the chain of causation is not broken. Reply

JCohen January 16, 2016

IVF is not homicide Naturally fertilized embryos are terminated by the body all the time. Most couples don't even realize they have lost a fertilized embryo because it occurs before menstruation. This is usually due to a genetic malformation. The same is true of IVF embryos. It is not the fertility Doctor that is unsuccessful, it is the human body. As for frozen embryos, According to the Talmud, the soul does not enter the embryo until 40 days after conception. The early embryo does not yet have a soul and so is not yet a person.”

Silber, S. J. (2010). Judaism and Reproductive Technology. Cancer Treatment and Research, 156, 471–480. Reply

Michael Petek England October 27, 2015

IVF and homicide There is one particular reason which is sufficient to rule out IVF. It is that the collateral loss of human life in terms of embryos who do not survive the procedure is so vast that it could scarcely be acceptable as the side effect of a peacetime activity. As soon as a fertility technician picks up a human embryo and places it in a womb, he commits homicide unless he succeeds in establishing a pregnancy. Reply

Anonymous March 27, 2014

This article is very helpful, however there are no sources here. I was wondering where you got all this information about the three rulings? Reply

Anonymous February 16, 2013

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NaProTECHNOLOGY— A Major Breakthrough. Reply

IVF clinics u.s July 2, 2012

IVF clinics After doing lots of online visits I got this post and also acquire more detailing information on IVF treatment. Couples who are experiencing infertility problem they should once visit this informative website. I must recommend my friend to visit this site. Reply

Mark Bebernig NYC, NY November 24, 2011

... converting the child ... ? How can a new-born be converted ?

Or the parents must wait till the child's "adult" age ? But what if the child isnt supposed to know how he/she was conceived ? Reply

Rabbi Lazer Danzinger for Chabad.org July 1, 2008

IVF The Talmud (Yevamot 97b) states that a fraternal relationship exists between twin boys born to a woman who converted while pregnant. Normally, converts are considered to be newly born. Therefore, since the fraternal relationship between the twins persists post-conversion, it is reasoned that it must be that giving birth (or gestation) establishes the maternal relationship.

Aggadic sources (see Yonatan ben Uziel on Gen. 30:21) speak of the intrauterine transfer of Dina from Rachel’s womb to Leah’s, and of Joseph from Leah’s womb to Rachel’s. Even so, the Torah refers to Dina as Leah’s daughter; and to Joseph, as Rachel’s son. This would suggest that each child had but a single mother. And it was the woman who gave birth that was considered the child’s mother.

There is a minority view that considers the ovum donor as the sole mother of the child.
For additional analysis and sources, see Rabbi J. David Bleich, “Contemporary Halakhic Problems,” vol. IV, p. 237-272. Reply

M Kotler Morristown, NJ June 25, 2008

IVF & Halacha I looked up this page after reading this in the Jewish Press. It seems strange to me that Halacha would view any person as having 2 mothers, or being half Jewish. These halachas must have been codified before there was any IVF, so it seems that the birth mother is the known mother. Can you quote any halachic sources? Reply

Laura Mushkat schenectady, ny October 29, 2007

re IVF any way that we can be blessed with a child-including adoption, IVF or any other way G-d has given us as a gift, should not only be permitted but encouraged.

G-d helps scientists to help us in so many ways and this is just one of them. Reply

Lisa Providence, RI July 27, 2007

In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) The Cantor at my synagogue used it and had fraternal twin girls. Unfortunately, one of them died of a rare disease. The surviving one is perfectly is fine.

I believe that there's always hope when you want to have children, and whether the Torah approves or not, it shouldn't stop you from having G-d's gift. Reply

Miriam Goodman Netivot, Israel July 9, 2007

IVF We have been blessed with a grandchild who was conceived through IVF. Our beautiful nine year old grandson is a Torah student who has given his parents and grandparents so much joy. Reply

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