Ask the rabbi

Does Jewish law permit artificial insemination?

TOUR of the Rambam Medical Center’s IVF unit are (
Photo by: Piotr Filter/Rambam Medical Center
Unlike in some religions, most Jewish medical ethicists have taken a generally positive attitude toward new assisted reproductive technologies, even as they impose restrictions and conditions on their use. This essay will focus on questions of artificial insemination (AI) with sperm from either the woman’s husband (AIH) or a donor (AID), leaving questions regarding other technologies for another occasion. As always, one should consult with a doctor and rabbi to determine the proper approach for each individual situation.

One immediate legal problem facing all reproductive treatments is the method of semen procurement necessary to test whether the infertility stems from the male contribution. Throughout the world, this is usually achieved through some form of masturbation, which induces ejaculation. However, the wasteful emission of seed (hash’hatat zera) is prohibited under Jewish law, as exemplified by the biblical episode of Er and Onan, spurring the name “onanism” for coitus interruptus.

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