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  • Family and Society
  • The Mitzva of Having Children

embryo implantation for Jewish couples


Rabbi Gideon Weitzman

Elul 23, 5778
I recently came across a fascinating phenomenon and I would like to ask a question pertaining to this. I have a very close family who has grappled with not being able to conceive for a number of years now. They have been married for almost 5 years and are starting to consider their options. One option they recently came across was embryo adoption, where an already fertilized zygote from another couple’s infertility treatment is implanted in the ‘adopting’ woman’s womb. It was amazing to learn that there are over 600,000 such fertilized embryos/zygotes here in the U.S. and the couples who are the ‘parents’ of these excess embryos are willing to donate them to organizations and couples seeking adoption. However, it differs from adoption in some striking ways: the zygote is implanted in the woman’s womb, the entire pregnancy takes place in the ’adopting’ mother’s womb, and the woman’s body reacts almost from day one as if it is a natural pregnancy - the natural pregnancy, gestational, and nursing hormones kick in as soon as the zygote is implanted. So, for all intensive purposes, this is almost identical to a normal pregnancy except that it originated with a zygote that does not have the same genetic makeup as the couple who is intending to have this as their child. Here is my question: Since this zygote will spend its entire time developing into a baby inside a Jewish woman’s womb, and it was actually implanted when it was newly conceived and passes the 40 day mark when a Jewish Neshama enters a developing baby that is within a Jewish woman’s body, would this be a pure Jewish Neshama? Meaning is this an authentic Jewish child not having to undergo any halachic conversion? This is actually huge, as there are so many Jewish parents not able to conceive and adopting a child not of Jewish heritage is not an option for many Jewish couples ..... if embryo implantation can produce an authentically Jewish child without any conversion issues, it could open up an entire new way of increasing families for Jewish couples having difficulty conceiving. I thank you so much, and eagerly await your reply.
Shalom This is indeed an interesting question. There is a difference in opinion as to whether the child would be considered Jewish or not. The parents should consult with a local expert who will be able to explain the different opinions and options. Kol tuv
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