Volume 7 Number 23

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Artificial Insemination


From: Anonymous
Date: Fri, 7 May 93 10:46:05 EDT
Subject: Artificial Insemination

Here are some responses to the recent postings on artificial

On the question from Gavriel Newman:

    Lastly, what of doctored AIH? Where manipulations are performed
  with the husband's semen, not altering the DNA makeup, but providing the
  'go' power?

On a related issue, my husband and I will be going through IVF (in vitro
fertilization), with micro-manipulation--a procedure in which the egg
and the sperm are both manipulated, and the sperm can actually be
injected into the egg. We spoke to Rabbi Moshe Tendler about this, and
he said that there is no problem with it.

>From a posting by Nachum Issur Babkoff:

  That is NOT to say that there are not grave hallachic concerns even
  where the donor is the legal husband. One such concern has to do with
  the question if the obligation of: "p'ru ur'vu" ("be fruitful and
  multiply") is fulfilled by a husband who impregnates his wife via AI.

We recently attended a talk on infertility by Dr. Fred Rosner, who is an
expert on halacha and medical ethics. He brought up the issue of p'ru
ur'vu, in the case where a couple is experiencing infertility, and
perhaps one of the partners is even sterile. He said that there are some
poskim who say that in this case, the mitzvah of p'ru ur'vu is satisfied
just by the act of intercourse, which is the attempt to conceive a
child. (Sorry, but I don't know the sources for this.)

Also from Nachum Issur Babkoff:

  "... lying
  splayed out, even in front of another woman, is considered improper and
  in violation of "tsni'ut" (modesty), unless it is for "piku'ach nefesh"
  (like child birth). Since AI is NOT "piku'ach nefesh" (life saving
  measure), there is NO justification (in R. Weiss's opinion) for a woman
  to expose herself in such a manner, ..."

First of all, would this be any different from the case of a regular
gynecological exam (the idea of lying "splayed out")?

Secondly, I would like to disagree with the claim that "AI is not
"piku'ach nefesh"". For those of us experiencing infertility, the agony
can many times feel like a death, and I would suggest that relieving a
couple of this kind of grief could be a kind of pikuach nefesh.

Dr. Rosner also made an interesting observation: halachically,
infertility is treated as a form of mental illness. This is due to the
anguish an infertile couple feels. Because halacha considers good mental
health to be of primary importance, Dr. Rosner said, poskim are
encouraged to look for leniencies regarding infertility treatment.

Finally, on the issue of artificial insemination by donor, Dr. Rosner
said that one would be unlikely to find a general psak (halachic ruling)
permitting this. However, he said that if a couple has exhausted all
other avenues of treatment and were to ask a psak for a specific case,
they would likely be given permission.


From: Anonymous
Date: Fri, 7 May 93 10:46:17 EDT
Subject: Infertility

All the recent halachic discussions on infertility in mail.jewish have
prompted us to reprint a letter that we wrote for our shul a few months
ago. We believe that the emotional side of infertility is all-important,
and we hope this letter gives you another equally valid Jewish
perspective on infertility.

Feel free to use any or all of this letter in your community, if you
think it is appropriate.  -

A Family Of Two

An open letter from a childless orthodox couple to a family-oriented

We are your friends, your neighbors, your relatives. We daven [pray]
next to you at morning minyan. We see you at sisterhood meetings.
     We've seen our community grow, and are proud to be part of a young,
vibrant, fertile orthodox community. We, too, are young, vibrant,
orthodox. But we are not fertile.
     For people like us--orthodox couples who have spent years and
fortunes trying to fulfill the biblical injunction to "be fruitful and
multiply," the monthly cycle of hope and despair, the barrage of medical
procedures and the parade of fertility specialists that all infertile
couples go through is bad enough without adding the pressure of going to
shul on Shabbat morning to find that virtually every couple is either
expecting, wheeling a baby carriage or yelling at their kids. Don't get
us wrong--we are very happy for you. But sometimes your joy is our pain.
     Sometimes, we get depressed and don't come to shul.
     Sometimes, after a week of hopeful news (husband is recovering well
from surgery, and we've been accepted into a top In Vitro Fertilization
program), we come to shul feeling great, only to discover there's a baby
naming and a big kiddush after davening. And as the chevra
[congregation] sings simon tov umazel tov, our grief trigger goes off,
and we escape into the bathroom and cry.

     Think about the wonderful children Hashem has given you. How proud
you must be! Now, consider what your life would be like if, right now,
you had no offspring--no child to give your love to. How would you feel?
Don't take your fertility for granted. It's a miracle, and you should
thank G-d for it.

     One out of every six couples in the United States experiences
infertility.  Between 40 and 50 percent of these couples will respond to
treatment with a successful pregnancy. The rest will never be able to
have biological children.  And it may take them years of emotional ups
and downs and thousands of dollars in medical costs to find this out.
The enormity of this loss may be hard to understand for fertile couples,
but keep in mind that at least one of your friends is probably having
fertility problems right now; if they choose to tell you, they will need
your friendship, support and above all, sensitivity.

     When you interact with a childless couple, what should you say?
What if you suspect a certain couple is having fertility problems, but
you're not sure?  We know it isn't easy...our friends who have children
sometimes act awkwardly around us, and sometimes avoid us. We know why.
We understand. And we have some hints so that it won't be so hard to
find the right things to say next time.
     First a few don'ts...
     ...don't feel guilty that you have children. Be proud of your
offspring.  But next time you're around someone who doesn't have
children, think twice before bragging about your child. Your child is
wonderful, but details of Junior's latest exploits could be a painful
thing for a childless couple to hear about.
     ...don't be offended if you offer an honor to a childless couple
(like asking them to be kvaters [the ones who carry the baby into the
room] at your son's bris), and they turn you down. Sometimes, just
holding a newborn can bring about grief, and besides, the couple already
feels self-conscious at a bris without being made a center of attention.
Certainly invite them to your child-related simchas, but understand if
they decide not to attend.
     ...don't deny a couple's pain by assuring them that everything will
be OK.  With Hashem's help, it will be OK eventually (even if that means
they'll never have biological children), but right now, they are really
     ...don't say "you've been married how long? Nu?" or "I guess your
career is more important to you than starting a family right now."
     ...don't say "have you ever considered adoption?" They probably
struggle with that question all the time.
     ...don't pry if you aren't sure. If a couple wants to tell you that
they're infertile, they will.
     ...don't make the couple feel inferior or that they're being
punished by G-d. (Remember: Abraham and Sarah couldn't bear a child
until their old age!)
     ...unless they ask, don't tell the couple about the halachic
ramifications of infertility treatment. That's what their Rav is for.
     ...don't say "as soon as you adopt, you'll get pregnant." The
unfortunate fact is that only five percent of infertile couples who
adopt conceive naturally after the adoption--and the same percentage
conceives without adopting.
     ...don't complain about your kids and offer to give them to an
infertile couple.
     ...please don't tell the couple to relax. A couple dealing with
fertility problems is going through a stressful situation, possibly the
most difficult challenge of their lives. Their work, even their marriage
could be strained because of all the time, money and emotion involved in
seeking treatment. And they don't know if their efforts will be
successful. They'd probably love to relax, but are too busy.

     So what should you do?
     There's no secret formula. Offer a shoulder to lean on, and be
prepared to listen. Don't volunteer advice (unless the couple asks) and
don't get their hopes up with miracle stories. Ask them what they want
if you're not sure; they'll tell you. If they say they'd rather not talk
about it right now, please respect that request. Understand why
sometimes they may act unsociably. Let them know you care. In other
words, act as you would with any friend who is going through hard times.
     The couple might also welcome an invitation to participate in your
family activities, especially during child-oriented holidays like
Chanukah, Purim or Simchat Torah. This may help them feel less isolated.

     The focus of your life is on your children. The focus of ours is on
getting pregnant. We pray that you continue to have healthy children and
that they give you nothing but joy.
     And if you know of a couple having difficulties with their
fertility, or if you are going through primary (no children) or
secondary (have children, but can't get pregnant again) infertility, or
are considering adoption, a national organization called Resolve offers
immediate, compassionate and informed help.  We highly recommend this
wonderful group. The national phone number is 617-623-0252.
     In addition, we are always happy to communicate with other
infertile couples, to discuss thoughts, experiences, feelings (however
little or much you want to share), to trade notes about medical
treatment, or just to reinforce the feeling that you're not "abnormal."
Just send mail to Avi, and he will put you in touch with us.


End of Volume 7 Issue 23