Monday, June 7, 2010

Surrogate Triplets. With Rabbinic Supervision!

Yediot Achronot, one of the main Israeli newspapers, carried a beautiful story about a couple that just had triplets - through a surrogate mother. The article appears in full in Hebrew, along with a short explanation of some of the halachic issues here. The process took place with the guidance of Machon Puah - a very well-known institute that deals with issues related to fertility and halachah. This is the first example of Orthodox triplets born through surrogate parenthood, and raises a number of fascinating halachic issues.

Who is the Mother?
Generally, while some rabbis prohibit surrogacy completely, many (including Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and others) permit it. Yet, the question is: who is the "real" mother: the genetic mother, or the birth mother? It's not a simple matter. Some rabbis feel that the genetic mother is the halachic mother, while others feel that we should be strict and rule that perhaps the birth mother is the "real" mother as well. (Yes, it gets complicated.)

What Religion Makes the Best Surrogate?
Is it better for the surrogate to be non-Jewish, so that there is never a possible complication regarding marriage? (What if the child didn't know he was a surrogate, and then later fell in love with a child of his surrogate mother? Scary.) Yet, if one chooses a non-Jewish surrogate, then the opinions which feel that the birth mother is the "real" mother would require that the parents then convert their "own" children - which is troubling for many. On the other hand, if the surrogate is Jewish, how do we account for the possible complications that may arise later on? Who keeps the records? Who ensures the sanctity of the Jewish family?

What about Multiple Fetuses?
Many cases of artificial insemination result in the challenging halachic issue of multiple fetuses: if there are too many, doctors recommend terminating some to raise the probability of viability among the others. In this case, the doctors were not happy with triplets, but in this case neither the Orthodox parents nor the Orthodox divorcee who served as the surrogate wanted to terminate the pregnancy. Thank God, she gave birth to three healthy children.

This fascinating story highlights to me the amazing convergence of technology and halachic development taking place here in Israel. This miracle has brought three more beautiful Jewish children into the world, ended to misery of two parents struggling to have children, and demonstrated yet again how the struggle to merge the worlds of modern life and Jewish tradition sometimes produces fantastic results.