Religious Perspectives on Assisted Reproductive Technology
The practice of surrogacy has remained contentious, not only in different countries and states, but in different religions too. Each faith has its own interpretation of how their teachings view assisted reproductive technology (ART), specifically surrogacy.
In this post, we cover the views of three religions: Catholicism, Islam, and Judaism, and their varying reasons for supporting or forbidding surrogacy.
The Catholic Church has famously opposed most forms of ART, as the purpose of sexual intercourse is to bear children within a marriage between a man and a woman.
In 1987, The Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released the Donum Vitae, a document that clarifies the Church’s moral views on certain modern fertility procedures. The Donum Vitae’s main point states that if a procedure assists the marriage act to achieve pregnancy, it is considered moral. If it substitutes marital sex to create a life, it is considered immoral. This stance is supported by the Catechism of the Catholic Church and a controversial Encyclical Letter from Paul VI, Humanae Vitae.
Although the Catholic Church views infertility as a natural condition, the alternatives to pregnancy (such as traditional and gestational surrogacy, egg and sperm donation, and IVF) are immoral procedures. Even procedures such as Gamete intrafallopian transfer, which is not technically IVF, are considered unacceptable as they replace the marital act with technology. However, as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe, the ultimate decision rests with the husband and wife.
In Islam, a fatwa is a non-binding religious opinion aimed at interpreting whether a certain act is in accordance with Islamic law. Of the three authorities that issue fatwas, the ones from the Fatwa Committee of Al-Azhar University are considered the most influential.
In March 1980, Sheikh Gad al-Haq Ali Gad al-Haq, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University issued a fatwa on assisted reproductive technologies that has largely been upheld by his followers today. The fatwa is mostly in favor of assisted reproduction, but surrogacy is banned. Here is a brief summary:
- All forms of surrogacy are banned.
- Artificial insemination is allowed.
- IVF is allowed as long as there is a medical reason and is carried out by an expert physician. If the physician performs banned techniques, his earnings are forbidden and he must cease the banned practice.
- Donated sperm, eggs, and embryos are not acceptable, as a third-party’s inclusion can be considered adultery.
- A child born through a forbidden technology is considered illegitimate, even if they are later adopted.
- ART cannot be utilized by an intended mother after a divorce or the death of her husband.
- Selective Abortion is only permissible if the success of pregnancy is slim, or if the mother’s health is in danger.
Acceptance of surrogacy and other ART techniques differ within the Jewish community, but surrogacy is generally viewed favorably. Under the Embryo Carrying Agreements Law, Israel is the first country to create state-level legislation for acknowledging surrogacy contracts. This law states that the surrogacy arrangement is only valid if participation is by Israeli citizens that share the same religion, and the surrogate must be unmarried. This is a stark contrast compared to American standards which require the surrogate to already be a mother and/or in a marriage.
For Orthodox Jews, surrogacy and most ART techniques are permissible. Modern Talmud scholars believe that the commandment “to be fruitful and multiply” is one of the most important. For Conservative Jews, surrogacy and egg donation is also permitted, but the gestational carrier, and not the intended mother, is considered the halakhically recognized mother. In other words, if the gestational carrier is not jewish, neither is the child.
To no one’s surprise, even communities within specific religions have disagreements, especially over modern medical technology like surrogacy. Depending on whether your church, mosque, or synagogue is progressive/orthodox or conservative, you might see varying levels of acceptance within the community. At the end of the day, the choice of surrogacy is still yours, along with how you choose to interpret or follow your beliefs. ConceiveAbilities’ surrogates and mothers have originated from various cultures, races, and faiths, and the common thread between them all is the desire to create a family.
If you’re interested in learning more about becoming a surrogate, read our interview with one of our standout surrogates, Leslie Mattern.
If you’re interested in using surrogacy yourself, read our essential post, Everything You Need to Know About Gestational Surrogacy.
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