September 23, 2011


Jewish law supports reproductive technologies

Michael J. Broyde delivered the Decalogue Lecture hosted by Emory's Center for the Study of Law and Religion.

Jewish law supports current and emerging forms of biotechnology used in assisted reproduction—including artificial insemination, surrogacy, embryo screening, and other techniques—as long as the overriding intent is to "produce a healthy or healthier child," says Michael J. Broyde, rabbi and professor of law at Emory.

"We ought to not be afraid of new technologies," says Broyde, who delivered the Decalogue Lecture hosted by Emory's Center for the Study of Law and Religion (CSLR) Sept. 13. "It's too easy to imagine worst-case scenarios and craft theoretical opposition. But processes that allow people to have children who can't are processes we should support."

A member of the Beth Din of America, the largest Jewish law court in the country, 

Broyde spoke recently on "The Bioethical Future: Some Jewish Thoughts on Reproductive Ethics" as part of CSLR's "When Law and Religion Meet" lecture series.

Broyde classified artificial insemination (AI) as a fairly low-tech activity that is even discussed in the Talmud. "No adultery is associated with AI. The dominant Jewish law view doesn't look at misplaced paternity, absent sexual conduct, as a moral or religious wrong," he says.

Broyde favors the view that the mother is the one who carries and gives birth to the child. "Maternity is established in Jewish tradition through birth, not merely genetics. In competition between the egg donor and the birth mother, the dominant Jewish law view labels the birth mother as the mother," he says. 

Broyde says cloning should be considered as a potential reproductive technology for "profoundly infertile people," such as men who no longer produce sperm due to a military or industrial accident.

He lists a half-dozen emerging reproductive technologies that are likely to become commonplace within the next 25 years.

In each case, he says, Jewish law would use "the best interest of the child" standard when evaluating such processes and above all ask: Have we produced another healthy or hearthier child? Technologies that result in healthy, or healthier, children are intrinsically good, he says, and should be embraced, not feared.

"Jewish law says Matzel tov," Broyde concludes.

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