Religious response to assisted reproductive technology

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Religious response to assisted reproductive technology (ART) deals with the new challenges for traditional social and religious communities raised by modern assisted reproductive technology (ART). Because many religious communities have strong opinions and religious legislation regarding marriage, sex and reproduction, modern fertility technology has forced religions to respond.

Sperm collection[edit]

Both for male factor testing and in order to use sperm for IUI or IVF the couple must first collect a sperm sample. For many religious groups this creates a challenge due to a prohibition on masturbation.


Christian churches have different views to assisted reproductive technology.


The Roman Catholic Church opposes certain types of ART and artificial contraception since they separate the procreative goal of marital sex from the goal of uniting married couples. The Roman Catholic Church permits the use of a small number of reproductive technologies and pregnancy postponement methods like natural family planning, which involves charting ovulation times. The church allows other forms of reproductive technologies that allow conception to take place from normative sexual intercourse, such as a fertility lubricant, the use of hormonal injections to grow follicles and assist in ovulation, and IUI with sperm collected using the approved method of collection during intercourse.

In vitro fertilization[edit]

Pope Benedict XVI has publicly re-emphasized the Catholic Church's opposition to in vitro fertilization (IVF), claiming it replaces love between a husband and wife.[1] In addition, the church opposes IVF because it might cause disposal of embryos; Catholics believe an embryo is an individual with a soul who must be treated as a such.[2]

This particular doctrine, often expounded by the magisterium of the Church, is based on the inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act.

The reason is that the fundamental nature of the marriage act, while uniting husband and wife in the closest intimacy, also renders them capable of generating new life—and this as a result of laws written into the actual nature of man and of woman. And if each of these essential qualities, the unitive and the procreative, is preserved, the use of marriage fully retains its sense of true mutual love and its ordination to the supreme responsibility of parenthood to which man is called. We believe that our contemporaries are particularly capable of seeing that this teaching is in harmony with human reason.[3]

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church,

Techniques involving only the married couple (homologous artificial insemination and fertilization) are perhaps less reprehensible, yet remain morally unacceptable. They dissociate the sexual act from the procreative act. The act which brings the child into existence is no longer an act by which two persons give themselves to one another, but one that "entrusts the life and identity of the embryo into the power of doctors and biologists and establishes the domination of technology over the origin and destiny of the human person. Such a relationship of domination is in itself contrary to the dignity and equality that must be common to parents and children."[4]

The Catholic Church maintains that it is not objectively evil to be infertile, and advocates adoption as an option for such couples who still wish to have children:

The Gospel shows that physical sterility is not an absolute evil. Spouses who still suffer from infertility after exhausting legitimate medical procedures should unite themselves with the Lord's Cross, the source of all spiritual fecundity. They can give expression to their generosity by adopting abandoned children or performing demanding services for others.[4]

Gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT) is not technically in vitro fertilisation because with GIFT, fertilisation takes place inside the body, not on a Petri dish.[5] The Catholic Church nevertheless is concerned with it because "Some theologians consider this to be a replacement of the marital act, and therefore immoral."[6]

LDS Church[edit]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints "strongly discourages the donation of sperm" and likewise strongly discourages in vitro fertilization "using semen from anyone but the husband or an egg from anyone but the wife". However, official church policy also notes that such decisions are personal matters and, as such, "must be left to the judgment of the husband and wife". No disciplinary action is advised for LDS married couples who make use of such in vitro fertilization.[7]

Protestant Churches[edit]

Protestant Churches in Western and Northern europe support assisted reproductive technology


There are several Hindus who have been claimed to be born without intercourse including Karna and Five Pandavas.[8]


The Islamic community, after the fatwa on ART by Gad El-Hak Ali Gad El-Hak of Egypt's Al-Azhar University, largely accepted ART.[9]

IVF and similar technologies are permissible as long as they do not involve any form of third-party donation (of sperm, eggs, embryos, or uteruses). Regarding third-party donation there is a debate between the Sunni and Shia streams of Islam. The Sunni community, following the Al-Azhar fatwa, does not allow third-party donations. In 1999, Ayatollah Khamenei, the authority for the Shi'a Muslims, issued a fatwa stating that it was permitted to use third-party donors.[10]

The conclusions of Gad El-Hak Ali Gad El-Hak's ART fatwa are as follows:[9]

  1. Artificial insemination with the husband’s semen is allowed, and the resulting child is the legal offspring of the couple.
  2. In vitro fertilization (IVF) of an egg from the wife with the sperm of her husband and the transfer of the fertilized egg back to the uterus of the wife is allowed, provided that the procedure is indicated for a medical reason and is carried out by an expert physician.
  3. Since marriage is a contract between the wife and husband during the span of their marriage, no third party should intrude into the marital functions of sex and procreation. This means that a third party donor is not acceptable, whether he or she is providing sperm, eggs, embryos, or a uterus. The use of a third party is tantamount to zina, or adultery.
  4. Adoption of a child from an illegitimate form of medically assisted conception is not allowed. The child who results from a forbidden method belongs to the mother who delivered him/her. He or she is considered to be a laqid, or an illegitimate child.
  5. If the marriage contract has come to an end because of divorce or death of the husband, medically assisted conception cannot be performed on the ex-wife even if the sperm comes from the former husband.
  6. An excess number of embryos can be preserved by cryopreservation. The frozen embryos are the property of the couple alone and may be transferred to the same wife in a successive cycle, but only during the duration of the marriage contract. Embryo donation is prohibited.[2]
  7. Selective reduction is only allowed if the prospect of carrying the pregnancy to viability is very small. It is also allowed if the health or life of the mother is in jeopardy.
  8. All forms of surrogacy are forbidden.
  9. Establishment of sperm banks with "selective" semen threatens the existence of the family and the "race" and should be prevented.
  10. The physician is the only qualified person to practice medically assisted conception in all its permitted varieties. If he performs any of the forbidden techniques, he is guilty, his earnings are forbidden, and he must be stopped from his morally illicit practice.


Defining Jewish views on assisted reproductive technology based solely on branches of Judaism is problematic since there is substantial overlap in opinions and moral authority.[2]

Orthodox Judaism[edit]

Within the Orthodox Jewish community the concept is debated as there is little precedent in traditional Jewish legal textual sources. Non-legal sources such as medrash and aggadah provide stories that have been used to draw conclusions regarding ART by modern Jewish legal decisors. In general, traditional Judaism views medical intervention positively.[11] Regarding ART, the positive view of medicine is challenged by the Jewish religious legal system which has numerous laws regarding modesty and sexuality and a strong emphasis on verifiable lineage.

In Orthodox Judaism, insemination with the husband’s sperm is permissible if the wife cannot become pregnant in any other way.[2]

Regarding laws of sexuality, religious challenges include masturbation (which may be regarded as “seed wasting”[2]), laws related to sexual activity and menstruation (niddah) and the specific laws regarding intercourse. Additional issues arise regarding the restrictions of the Sabbath (Shabbat) and Jewish holidays.

An additional major issue is that of establishing paternity and lineage. For a baby conceived naturally, the father’s identity is determined by a legal presumption (chazakah) of legitimacy: rov bi'ot achar ha'baal - a woman's sexual relations are assumed to be with her husband. Regarding an IVF child, this assumption does not exist and as such Rabbi Eliezer Waldenberg (among others) requires an outside supervisor to positively identify the father.[12] Doctors or laboratory workers present at the time of the fertility treatment are not considered supervisors due to a conflict of interest and their pre-occupation with their work.[13]

As such, supervisory services are required for all treatments involving lab manipulation or cryopreservation of sperm, ovum or embryos.

While a range of views exist, both egg donation and surrogacy are permitted according to many Orthodox decisors, pending religious fertility supervision.[2][14] (In Israel, the "Embryo Carrying Agreements Law" was formulated to ensure that surrogacy agreements between Jewish Israelis do not conflict with Jewish laws concerning incest and adultery and that the child born of the arrangement will be recognized as a Jew.)[15]

Those interested are recommended to contact their local Orthodox or Hasidic Rabbi, as these laws are obviously complicated, and as is customary.

Conservative Judaism[edit]

The official halachic legal authority for American Conservative Judaism is the Rabbinical Assembly's[permanent dead link] Committee on Jewish Law and Standards. They vote on proposed responsa. A responsa may be approved by either a majority or a minority vote, and individual Rabbis may rely on even minority-approved responsa for their rulings.

Artificial insemination: AI is permitted whether the donor is the husband of the woman to be impregnated or not, although it is preferable to use the husband's sperm whenever possible. The sperm donor is considered the father for purposes of determining the child's tribal status and for issues of ritual consanguinity, therefore, the use of anonymous donors is strongly discouraged.[16]

Egg donation/Surrogacy: Surrogacy and egg donation are permissible and the birth mother, rather than the genetic mother, is considered the mother of the child, therefore conversion may be necessary if a non-Jewish woman acts as a gestational surrogate. A maximum of 3 embryos may be implanted at a time. Freezing and donation of embryos is permitted.[16][17]

The Conservative movement's position on "family purity" practices, reducing the amount of time after a woman's period during which she is prohibited to have sex, may also work as a pro-fertility measure. As part of its treatment of Tohorat HaMishpahah, the Conservative Assembly in 2006 accepted a position of eliminating the requirement for seven white days after the cessation of menses and establishing this as an optional custom. This is offered as a solution for women dealing with ovulation before mikvah by reducing the number of days with sexual relations being forbidden from an average of 12 to 5.[18] Mid-cycle staining during ovulation, while ordinarily would prevent sexual relations by being considered zavah, is to be considered a result of ancillary circumstances (diet, medical treatment, physical exertion, or illness) and as such the emission is considered permissible, and the woman would not become a zavah.[18] Drug therapies to avoid mid-cycle staining are deemed unnecessary with the risks of the drug side-effects outweighing the prohibition of zavah due to the commandment of hai bahem, ("[you shall] live by them").[18]

Other movements[edit]

Reform Judaism has generally approved artificial insemination by donor, in-vitro fertilization and surrogate motherhood.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Pope Benedict XVI Declares Embryos Developed For In Vitro Fertilization Have Right To Life", Medical news today, archived from the original on 2008-12-29.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Dain, Alina (January 14, 2019). "Reconciling religion and infertility". Medill School of Journalism. Archived from the original on November 4, 2013. Retrieved January 14, 2019.
  3. ^ Pope Paul VI (25 July 1968). "Humanae Vitae: Encyclical of Pope Paul VI on the Regulation of Birth, sec 12". Rome: Vatican. Retrieved 25 November 2008.
  4. ^ a b "Catechism of the Catholic Church. Section 2377". Rome: Vatican. 1993. Retrieved 25 November 2008.
  5. ^ "Gamete Intrafallopian Transfer (GIFT)". Loras. Retrieved 22 May 2012.
  6. ^ Haas, John M. "Begotten Not Made: A Catholic View of Reproductive Technology". United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Archived from the original on February 10, 2007.
  7. ^ Handbook 2: Administering the Church, section 21.4 Policies on Moral Issues, accessed 02 December 2016
  8. ^ "Science in hinduism-Test tube babies". Oct 20, 2013. Retrieved 30 May 2016.
  9. ^ a b Inhorn 2006.
  10. ^ Goodwin, Jan (Winter 2008), "Faith & Fertility", Conceive, My virtual paper, archived from the original on 2009-06-21.
  11. ^ Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 336: 1
  12. ^ Tzitz Eliezer 9 p. 247
  13. ^ Rav Sholom Eliashiv: “Even if I were to be the lab worker I couldn’t be a valid witness for this matter”.
  14. ^ Haredi widow to become surrogate mother. Nissan Shtrauchler, Yediot Acharonot
  15. ^ Teman, Elly. 2010. Birthing a Mother: the Surrogate Body and the Pregnant Self. Berkeley: University of California Press. See also Kahn, Susan Martha. 2000. Reproducing Jews: A Cultural Account of Assisted Conception in Israel. Durham: Duke University Press.
  16. ^ a b Dorff, Rabbi Elliott. "Artificial Insemination, Egg Donation, and Adoption," Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Conservative Rabbinical Assembly. Approved 20 in favor, 1 abstention, in 1994
  17. ^ Mackler, Rabbi Aaron L. "In Vitro Fertilization," Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Conservative Rabbinical Assembly. Approved 20 in favor, 1 abstention, in 1995.
  18. ^ a b c Grossman, Susan (September 13, 2006). "Mikveh And The Sanctity Of Being Created Human" (PDF). Cite journal requires |journal= (help)


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