CCAR RESPONSA

American Reform Responsa

157. Artificial Insemination

(Vol. LXII, 1952, pp. 123-125)

QUESTION: Is artificial insemination permitted by Jewish Law?

ANSWER: The question involves many legal problems. Does the donor fulfill the duty of begetting children (Periya Ureviya) if a child is born (but the donor has no other children)? Does he commit the sin of wasting seed (zera levatala)? Is the woman henceforth forbidden to live with her husband on the ground that she has been fertilized by a man who is not her husband? Is the child a Mamzer, since he is born of a married woman (Eshet Ish) and a man not her husband? Is there not a danger that the child, when he grows up, may marry his own blood sister or the wife of his own blood brother (contrary to the Levirate laws)?

1. Even though the technique of artificial insemination is new, nevertheless, most of the questions mentioned above are not new in the Law, since the legal literature has already discussed them with regard to certain special circumstances which are analogous to artificial insemination, namely, if, for example a woman is impregnated in a bath from seed that had been emitted there ("Ibera be-ambatei") (cf. B., Chagiga 15a, top).

2. Joel Sirkes (1561-1640), in Bach to Tur, Yoreh De-a 195 (quoting Semak) says that the child is absolutely kasher (i.e., not a Mamzer), since there had been no actual forbidden intercourse ("Ein kan bi-at isur").

3. On the basis of the fact that there has been no illicit intercourse, Judah Rosanes (died in Constantinople in 1727), in his Mishneh Lamelech to Maimonides, Hilchot Ishut XV.4, declares that the woman is not immoral and is therefore not forbidden to live with her husband.

4. But whose son is it? Samuel b. Uri Phoebus (17th century), in his commentary Beit Shemu-el to Shulchan Aruch, Even Ha-ezer 1, note 10, says that it is the son of the donor; otherwise we would not be concerned lest the child later marry his own blood sister. If he were not, the donor's daughter would not be his sister.

5. In modern times, since the development of the technique of artificial insemination, the subject has been discussed by Chayim Fischel Epstein in his Teshuva Shelema (Even Ha-ezer, #4), and by Ben Zion Uziel of Tel Aviv, the chief Sephardic rabbi of Palestine, in his Mishpetei Uziel, part II, Even Ha-ezer, section 19.

Epstein--because of the danger that the child may some day, out of ignorance, marry one of the forbidden degrees of relationship--opposes the use of seed from a stranger, but permits the use of the husband's own seed if that is the only way the wife can be impregnated by her husband. Ben Zion Uziel says--as do earlier authorities--that the woman is not immoral because of this act and that the child is kasher, but--disagreeing with Beit Shemu-el--he says that the child is not the child of the donor as to inheritance and Chalitsa. He adds that the woman thus impregnated (if not married) may not marry until the time of suckling the child is over.

Since he concludes that the child is not the donor's child, he therefore considers that the donor has sinned in wasting seed.

However, inasmuch as he concludes that the woman is not immoral and not forbidden to her husband, he seems to incline toward permitting the procedure at the recommendation of the physician although he hesitates to say so .

6. My own opinion would be that the possibility of the child marrying one of his own close blood kin is far-fetched, but that since, according to Jewish law, the wife has committed no sin and the child is kasher, then the process of artificial insemination should be permitted.

Solomon B. Freehof

If needed, please consult Abbreviations used in CCAR Responsa.