LifeCycle Events: Childbearing, Fertility and Abortion: Non-Natural Births or Conceptions:
What are the Talmud's views about non-naturally occurring births or conceptions?
The Talmud is quite familiar with births that don't occur naturally -- Caesarian sections, for example. (The Talmudic term is "yotze dofen" -- "coming out through the [abdominal] wall"; the term occurs dozens of times.) More interesting problems are presented by conceptions that don't occur naturally, but rather by in vitro fertilization, parthenogenesis (conception without benefit of sperm), or cloning, and by children whose genetic makeup is
altered by genetic engineering. Such procedures are modern developments, and there is therefore no explicit discussion
of them in the Talmud, but they have been treated extensively in the recent halachic literature. A collection of papers on "Jewish Law and the New Reproductive Technologies", edited by Emanuel Feldman and Joel B. Wolowelsky, was published in 1997 by Ktav Publishing House in Hoboken, NJ. For an early treatment of the halachic status of genetic engineering see the paper "Judaism and Gene Design" in Tradition, Vol.13 No.2, Fall 1972, pp.71-80 (reprinted in
F. Rosner and J.D. Bleich, eds., Jewish Bioethics, Hebrew Publishing Co., New York, 1979, pp.401-408). For a recent halachic discussion of cloning see Michael J. Broyde, "Cloning people and Jewish law: A preliminary analysis", Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society No.34, Fall 1997, pp.27-65. Assuming that cloning is performed by inserting genetic material from a donor into an egg which is then implanted in the womb of a host mother, the main conclusions are that (1) cloning is an acceptable way of having a child if no
other methods are available; (2) the child is legally human; and (3) the donor of the genetic material is the child's parent, and the host mother is also the child's mother (so that if the donor is a woman, the child has two mothers).
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