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January 1, 2013 1:22 pm

In Revolutionary Ruling, Rabbis Allow Gender Selection

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A fetus. Photo: Wikpedia.

After years in which rabbis forbade any sort of gender selection at conception, a recent revolutionary Halachic (Jewish legal) ruling has now deemed it permissible to intervene and select the gender of a fetus in certain situations. The ruling was to be officially issued at a conference on Wednesday organized by the Puah Institute, which offers fertility treatments in line with Jewish law.

“There are three ways to select the gender of a fetus,” Institute founder Rabbi Menachem Burstein said. “The first way is the most natural, and depends on the man and the exact time the woman ovulates. Another method involves putting the sperm in a special apparatus to separate the male [Y chromosome] sperm from the female [X chromosome] sperm. The third method involves in vitro fertilization.”

According to Burstein, rabbis have forbidden any kind of intervention until now. “It is considered to be the spilling of seed, and a gross intervention, which is generally unacceptable. But since the number of requests has been growing, and since sometimes the requests stem from a deep psychological need, it is possible to permit the second and third methods,” he said.

“We have come across cases of people who felt it was important to have sons to carry on the family line because of the Holocaust, or families with six or seven daughters in which the father wants a son so much that it threatens the marriage. In cases like this, the matter will be examined by the appropriate rabbis, psychologists and medical committees, and clearly a Halachic compromise can be reached. Jewish law is making incredible strides as medicine advances. It is easiest always to say no, but sometimes, if the rules can be eased or and if solutions can be found then we should strive for that,” he said.

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  • Caroline Senter

    The family line can as equally well be carried on by a daughter as by a son. Even the idea of wanting to carry on a specific genetic inheritance is part of the selfish gene argument of Richard Dawkins, and is an animal level drive best left behind. Sex of the child is surely a minor consideration when a child is truly wanted and adoption is surely an equally or even more useful alternative for society than an insistence in passing on ones own genes and in an exclusively male vehicle. Those who are obssessed with the need for a son would benefit from counselling on their issues and in the case of the man with six daughters this should encompass the psychological damage he inflicts on his daughters by his undermining behaviour.