Artificial Insemination Forbidden For Single Women

Jerusalem Orthodox Rabbi Shlomo Aviner writes:

Q: If it permissible for a single woman, who is reaching the age of forty, sees that she does not have a reasonable chance of getting married and desperately wants a baby, to be artificially inseminated?
A: Artificial Insemination from a Jewish donor is impossible since the donation is made anonymously and since the father is unknown, there is a concern that the child will eventually marry one of his/her relatives.
Artificial Insemination from a non-Jew does not contain this problem. There are authorities (i.e. Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein, Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and others) who permit Artificial Insemination from a non-Jew for a married woman whose husband is infertile. From a certain perspective this is preferable to adopting a child, since at least the woman will be the child’s natural mother.
In our case, however, it is improper since the child will be bereft of a father. It is true that there are single parents after a divorce or a death, and the child is bereft of a parent, but the child has a father. Our case is somewhat similar to a "shetuki" mentioned in the Gemara (Kiddushin 69a). A "shetuki" is someone who knows his mother but not his father, and he is called a "shetuki" because when he calls: "Abba," his mother says: "Shetok" (quiet). The Master of the Universe arranged that a child would have a mother and a father. This is normal. After the fact, a single mother can do a wonderful job raising children, but before the fact it is unethical for a mother to build her own happiness at the expense of the child. It will forever be difficult for him to respond to the question of who is his father, and it is possible that he will be suspected for being born out of wedlock in an illicit relationship.

From Gil Student’s Facebook page discussion:

Raphael Davidovich: Interesting. IMO, this is a perfect illustration of why there should NOT be women poskim. (Not that a male poseik could not conceivably disagree with R Aviner.) We all admire those gedolim stories that highlight compassion in a poseik. But it is clear to me from other areas of public policy that the compassion:standards ratio would change drastically with women poskim. And I think supporters of women poskim are far more aware of this than the opponents are.

Yonatan Kaganoff: If you go through Rabbi Aviner shlit"a’s post, there are no clear objections to AI except that it creates single motherhood, which is ethically objectionable. So isn’t that each person’s perspective, based upon personal introspection, if she could raise a child properly as a single mother? Rav Aviner is carte blanche deciding that single motherhood is bad and its better to never have kids than be a single mother…. Read More We are talking about women have been dating for 20 years and haven’t found a spouse. So why should things change in the next one to two years? I wonder if couples ask him if they should have a fifth or seventh kid and he tells them not to for similar reasons.

Freda Bluestone Birnbaum:
We’re aware of R. Aviner’s view but there are other views as well which have halachic credibility. As to women poskim, I’ve met some pretty tough-minded women who do not fit the sterotype of “compassion versus thinking” which seems to me a red herring anyhow. It’s not a good idea to reject input from the very people who are affected. It’s like … Read Morehaving all sorts of fancy theories about how many teeth a horse has instead of actually looking in the horse’s mouth. Why on earth men-only should have input into this issue continues to amaze and anger me.

Gil Student:
Freda: The assumption that it’s men against women and that all men have input while no women have input is mistaken. It isn’t men against women. The vast majority of men are not poskim either.

Yonatan: Rav Aviner is saying that it is a Jewish value to have a two-parent family. He doesn’t have to use the words “assur” or “mutar” to make an important point. Just because, or even if, this is mutar, it isn’t right.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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