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


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.

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