Let’s Create a More Certain Future
Since the birth of the first baby conceived in vitro, more than five million babies have been born as a result of assisted reproductive technologies, or ART. As testament to the openness of halakha to scientific advancement, many Orthodox Jewish families have been built through ART. This includes a sizable number that, for medically pressing reasons, have included the use of egg donation.
Egg donation in the Orthodox community
Egg donation in the Orthodox community is a complex issue. There are no clear precedents from which to draw for a decisive consensus on establishing halakhic maternity. As a result, the status of children born through egg donation has not been resolved. Contemporary poskim are still debating whether it is preferable for the donor to be a Jew or gentile and, if the latter is preferable, whether or not gerut is
required. Meanwhile, the uncertainty adds a tremendous burden of stress to couples seeking care.
The development of reliable techniques for oocyte cryopreservation (egg freezing) provides a potent means of preventing the need for egg donation for the next generation of women. However, the usefulness of this technique declines with advancing maternal age such that, for the average woman in her late 30s or early 40s, the hope it provides is largely a false one. Encouraging Jewish women to consider egg freezing if they are in their early thirties and without a partner should not be considered coercive; rather, it would be gesture of concern, and ahava, on the part of the rabbinic establishment.
Of course, this will not solve the issues for all infertile Jewish women in need of an egg donor, and particularly those who are currently in crisis over this issue. Contemporary yoatzot and poskim should explore the halakhic issues for younger Jewish women who wish to donate their eggs and, should there be no insurmountable barriers, encourage donation as an act of great hesed.
Richard V. Grazi, M.D. is the Director of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology at Maimonides Medical Center and the founder of GENESIS Fertility & Reproductive Medicine.