The creation of modern assisted reproductive technology has raised new challenges for traditional social and religious communities. Due to the fact that marriage, sex & reproduction are topics that many religious communities have strong opinions and religious legislation regarding, the modern fertility technology has forced religions to respond.

General Attitudes


The Roman Catholic Church opposes all kinds of ART because, as with contraception, it separates the procreation purpose of the marriage act from its unitive purpose. Pope Benedict XVI has publicly re-emphasized the Catholic Church's opposition to in vitro fertilization (IVF), saying it replaces love between a husband and wife[1].


2376 Techniques that entail the dissociation of husband and wife, by the intrusion of a person other than the couple (donation of sperm or ovum, surrogate uterus), are gravely immoral. These techniques (heterologous artificial insemination and fertilization) infringe the child's right to be born of a father and mother known to him and bound to each other by marriage. They betray the spouses' "right to become a father and a mother only through each other."
2377 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."168 "Under the moral aspect procreation is deprived of its proper perfection when it is not willed as the fruit of the conjugal act, that is to say, of the specific act of the spouses' union . . . . Only respect for the link between the meanings of the conjugal act and respect for the unity of the human being make possible procreation in conformity with the dignity of the person."

In addition, IVF is disregarded because it might cause disposal of embryos; In Catholicism, an embryo is viewed as an individual that must be treated as a person.[3]

What is permitted is technology that allows conception to take place from normative sexual intercourse. For example use of special lubricant (Pre-Seed or similar) or charting ovulation times.


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[4].

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 & 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 is was permitted to use third-party donors.[5]

The conclusions of Gad El-Hak Ali Gad El-Hak's ART fatwa are as follows[6]:

  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.[3]
  7. Multifetal pregnancy reduction (i.e., selective abortion) 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.[3]

Orthodox Judaism

Within the Orthodox Jewish community the concept was 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[7]. Regarding ART, the positive view of medicine is challenged by the Jewish religious legal system which has numerous laws regarding modesty & 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.[3]

Regarding laws of sexuality, religious challenges include masturbation (which may be regarded as “seed wasting”[3]), niddah & the specific laws regarding intercourse. Additional issues arise regarding the restrictions of Shabbat and holidays.

An additional major issue is that of establishing paternity and lineage. For a baby conceived naturally the father’s identity is defined under a chazakah of rov belilot 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[8]. 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[9].

As such, supervisory services are required for all treatments involving lab manipulation or cyropreservation 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.[3][10] (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.)[11]

Conservative Judaism

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.[12]

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.[12]

Drug therapies to avoid mid-cycle staining are deemed necessary with the risks of the drug side-effects outweighing the prohibition of zavah due to the commandment of uvhai bahem, (“And you shall live by them").[12]

Other movements

Reform Judaism has generally approved artificial insemination by donor, In-vitro fertilization and surrogate motherhood.[3]

Sperm collection

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.

Solutions include:

  • Religious waivers due to the sperm being used for procreation.
  • Post-coatial testing
  • Seminal Collection Device (SCD) - a non-spermicidal condom used during intercourse.

See also


  1. Pope Benedict XVI Declares Embryos Developed For In Vitro Fertilization Have Right To Life
  2. Text of the catechism
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Reconciling religion and infertility By Alina Dain. July 30, 2009
  4. Link to an article explaining Gad El-Hak Ali Gad El-Hak's ART fatwa
  5. Faith & Fertility. Jan Goodwin, Conceive Magazine Winter 2008
  6. Making Muslim Babies: Sunni versus Shi’a Approaches to IVF and Gamete Donation. Marcia C. Inhorn, PhD
  7. Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 336: 1
  8. Tzitz Eliezer 9 p. 247
  9. Rav Sholom Eliashiv: “Even if I were to be the lab worker I couldn’t be a valid witness for this matter”.
  10. Haredi widow to become surrogate mother. Nissan Shtrauchler, Yediot Acharonot
  11. 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.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Grossman, Susan (September 13, 2006). Mikveh And The Sanctity Of Being Created Human. 

External links

Template:Assisted reproductive technology Template:Reproductive health Template:Sex

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