Sunday, June 1, 2008

Host mothers & Jewish identity - who is the mother?

One of the hot topics in Israel is the question of a child born from a surrogate mother. Frum women who can not get pregnant are donating eggs which are implanted in another woman. The present cases involve frum surrogate mothers - which is a separate problem.

Does Jewish identity go by the donor of the biological/genetic material or the one who gives birth to the child. There are two sources of difficulty in deciding this issue. 1) The technology to produce a child is very recent. 2) There is a paucity of relevant Torah sources. Even such a Torah giant as Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt"l was not able to decide. An excellent review of these issues is found in R' Dovid Bleich's Contemporary Halachic Problems Volume IV pp 237-272.

On the level of biology some of the variants are
1) Is the egg fertilized in the donor or outside?
2) If outside - is it in the host mother or in vitro?
3) At what stage of development is the transfer to the host mother done?.
4) If the birth mother received an ovarian transplant - do the eggs belong to her or the donor?
5) If the recipient of an ovarian transplant is not the owner of the egss - is her husband allowed to have relations with her - i.e., is this adultery?
6) Does it matter who the father is?
7) What if genetic material is taken from another person's skin cells or perhaps from a combination of donors - is there any impact on identity?
8) What if the donor is not Jewish or the surrogate is not Jewish - does that impact identity?
9) what if the surrogate mother is an animal or an incubator - or even the father?
10) There are kabbalistic sources which state that Jewish identity and yichus is dependent on producing a child through sexual relations - so a child produced by in vitro ferilization is significantly different.
11) What if the host mother was converted at some time during gestation - what impact does this have on the Jewish identity of the child?

As far as I have been able to ascertain there is only a single source which deals directly with this issue - these are the medrashim that say that Dinah was transferred from the womb of Rachel to Leah and Yosef from Leah to Rachel. These medrashim clearly hold that identity is determined solely by the birth mother. But learning halacha from medrashim is problematic

These issues also impact on the issue of conversion. R' Bleich cites the view of Rav Sternbuch in who uses the events of Sinai to help resolve some of these issues.

1 comment :

  1. Here is a start on the topic from a Modern Orthodox perspective.
    Rabbi Moshe Tendler and Dr. Fred Rosner delivered numerous presentations on the subject at a conferences for Torah and Science beginning in the late 90s. They both also published several articles discussing the topic.

    Rabbi Prof. Moshe Tendler (Chairman, Department of Biology, Yeshiva University),

    In vitro fertilization and surrogate motherhood: The Jewish view
    Journal Journal of Religion and Health
    Publisher Springer Netherlands
    ISSN 0022-4197 (Print) 1573-6571 (Online)
    Issue Volume 22, Number 2 / June, 1983
    DOI 10.1007/BF02296394
    Pages 139-160
    Subject Collection Behavioral Science
    SpringerLink Date Monday, April 10, 2006

    Fred Rosner Contact Information
    (1) Department of Medicine, Queens Hospital Center Affiliation of the Long Island Jewish-Hillside Medical Center, 82-68 164th St., 11432 Jamaica, N.Y.
    (2) Health Sciences Center, State University of New York at Stony Brook, Stony Brook, USA

    This paper examines the legal, moral, ethical, and Jewish religious issues involved inin vitro fertilization and surrogate motherhood. Also briefly discussed are the topics of artificial insemination and sex organ transplants. Jewish views on these subjects are based on the cardinal principles that life is of infinite value, that human life is sacred, and that the divine license to heal granted to the physician carries with it certain well-defined obligations and restrictions.

    Also Rabbi Mordehai Halperin
    p 125

    There is also YU Medical Ethics: Partners in Creation: Fertility, Modern Medicine, and Jewish Law

    Partners in Creation: Fertility, Modern Medicine, and Jewish Law
    October 14, 2007

    Here is a transcript:

    Rabbi Kenneth Brander has also written a great deal on surrogacy:
    Medical Ethics Society Discusses Surrogate Motherhood
    Michael Barer
    Issue date: 5/7/07 Section: News

    On Wednesday April 25, the Student Medical Ethics Society brought together Rabbi Kenneth Brander, Dean of the Center for the Jewish Future, and Dr. Adrienne Asch, Director of the Center for Ethics at Yeshiva University, to speak about surrogate motherhood. The presentation took on the issue from two sides: Dr. Asch gave a secular basis to the issue of surrogacy in general and Rabbi Brander took that and expanded on it to show how various situations would be resolved according to Jewish law.

    Rabbi Kenneth Brander, "Artificial Insemination & Surrogate Motherhood through the Prism of Jewish Law" in B'OR HA'TORAH 12E p 61

    There is an organization whose Rabbis are dedicated to this issue and who have published their opinions:

    In Israel there is Machon Puah and the Rabbis of that organization as well.

    Also Rabbi Dr. Richard Weiss


please use either your real name or a pseudonym.