Since it is a religion that urges its people to reproduce and bring souls into the world, Judaism, unlike other religions, is more permissive, even accepting of any forms of assisted reproduction. However, this view is not shared by all rabbis; in what follows we’ll take a look at IVF and Judaism and see how they get along and how they don’t.
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Like we said before, IVF and Judaism mainly have a good relationship, since most rabbis consider that if a couple cannot have children through natural methods, they can use all the help they can get, be it medical or religious, in their attempts to succeed. Perhaps the courtesy between IVF and Judaism stems from the fact that their holy book, the Torah, is quite flexible and even presents instances where women suffer from infertility. Thus we are told the stories of Sarah, Rebecca and Rachel, with the latter demanding Jacob to give her a child, otherwise she would be dead. Rebecca asks Isaac to pray to God and intervene on her behalf, and when his prayers are answered, she gets pregnant.
As we can see, some of these instances can be considered as sort of artificial or at least roundabout ways of conceiving children. Rachel even tries using certain plants to help her conceive, and when she finally does, she thanks God for sparing her the disgrace of being barren. Moreover, studies have shown that most Orthodox Jewish couples who have trouble getting pregnant do so because the male has fertility issues. These issues are mostly related to sperm quality. While 60% of Orthodox Jewish males may suffer from poor sperm quality, in the rest of the population only 50% of all men can be found to have this affliction. This statistic may also be related to the fact that most Orthodox Jewish women avoid sexual contact before marriage and thus cases of pelvic inflammatory disease – which can lead to infertility – are much rarer.
Another aspect that may explain why IVF and Judaism get along is that the Talmud is among the first religious books to accept a more important role of the female body in reproduction. While others considered the female womb as a simple incubator where God and man contributed to the birth of a child, Judaism considered that the woman provided “semen” as well, thus having a major part in the baby’s birth; not to mention the fact that Judaism is considered to be passed on through the mother. Generally, Judaism agrees with any means of assisted reproduction, though Jewish Law, such as the rule prohibiting the “spilling of seed” makes it a bit more confusing to determine what it kosher and what isn’t.