[Avodah] In revolutionary ruling, rabbis allow gender selection

T613K at aol.com T613K at aol.com
Wed Jan 2 09:51:34 PST 2013

From: "Prof. Levine" <llevine at stevens.edu>
>From  http://tinyurl.com/b2gfquv

>> Until now, rabbis have forbidden any  intervention 
to select the sex of baby  But Jewish fertility 
center  founder Rabbi Menachem Burstein says an 
increase in the number of requests  stemming from 
deep psychological needs has prompted rabbis to reconsider....  <<

Yitzchok Levine  

I really have a hard time believing that anyone has a "deep psychological  
need" to have a son rather than a daughter, or vice versa.  
I also am not very sympathetic to the idea that such a "need" justifies  
gender selection -- which can be very expensive and can require invasive and  
potentially risky medical intervention.  There is a way to separate Y sperm  
from X sperm in a lab but it is far from foolproof -- it has anywhere from  
a 10% to a 50% failure rate (meaning a 10% to 50% chance that the "wrong"  
sex baby will be born).  The only way that is foolproof is the much more  
expensive and invasive method of having the couple go through IVF, watch the  
fertilized ova for a couple of days until they have grown into  
several-celled balls, and then test each "ball" to see if it's male or  female, 
discarding the ones that are the wrong sex.
The one reason that truly does justify the expense, pain and risks, IMO, is 
 "medical gender selection," in which sex selection can prevent the birth 
of a  child who carries certain catastrophic genetic diseases.  
A boy may inherit from his mother a defective X chromosome causing a  
disease like muscular dystrophy, hemophilia or another genetic disease that is  
carried by the mother and can affect her male offspring.  In such a case  the 
parents want only girls because only boys get the disease.  Even if a  girl 
inherits her mother's "bad" X she will not have the disease  --  because 
the second X that she got from her father will protect her from disease  -- 
though she will be a carrier and can pass it on to /her/ sons.
One way to prevent the birth of children of the "wrong" sex is to check the 
 sex of the baby via amniocentesis when the mother is further along in her  
pregnancy and then abort the baby if it is the unwanted sex.  I think at  
that point the baby can also be tested to see if he did inherit his mother's  
"bad" X chromosome.  Abortion is way easier and cheaper than IVF but  
morally reprehensible.
Ironically many Christians consider the discarding of an eight-celled ball  
in the lab to be murder, just the same as if you had aborted a fetus or had 
 strangled a full-term baby after birth.  But I don't think there are /any/ 
 Jewish poskim who would say the discarding of such tiny balls of cells is 
the  same as abortion, let alone the same as murder!
BTW yesterday when we were talking about why there might be objections to  
IVF, one consideration that we didn't mention was the necessity of 
discarding  "extra" fertilized eggs.  Typically drugs are administered to induce  
super-ovulation -- the release of multiple eggs, not the normal monthly one or  
two eggs -- so that the doctors will have more to work with.  Not all the  
eggs will fertilize. But if six or eight or ten eggs /do/ fertilize, you do 
not  want to implant them all in the woman's uterus, because the babies will 
not  survive (and the mother might not either!). Instead, you implant the 
one or  two that look the healthiest and are growing vigorously, and either 
discard the  rest or freeze them for use in a later attempt.  If at a later 
date the  couple decide not to use those frozen eggs, and they are thawed and 
discarded,  Catholics believe that thawing out those embryos is yet another 
act of  murder, and all the doctors and nurses in the fertility clinic are 
mass  murderers.  We Jews are pro-life but don't agree with the Catholics 
and  fundamentalist Christians on this. I can sort of see where some poskim 
might not  like the idea of discarding extra embryos (balls of cells -- do not 
picture  a baby or even a fetus).  But the vast majority do not seem to 
consider  this a halachic problem AFAIK.  When we asked our shailos we were 
told it  was not a problem.  If you need that information I will tell you 
privately  which posek we asked but since I cannot be certain he would answer 
every case  the same I don't want to say it here.
So anyway, not to forget my main point, to my mind sex selection IS  
justified for medical reasons,  but doing something that is so expensive,  so 
invasive, and so risky to the mother, is not justified just because G-d  sent 
you six daughters and you really wanted a son.  Love your daughters  and thank 
G-d for them, and thank Him that you are not one of those childless  Jewish 
couples who would be ecstatic to have your "problem."
--Toby Katz


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