What Does Jewish Law Say About Surrogacy?
When is Surrogacy Indicated?
In the Jewish Religion, having a baby is celebrated, which is why when plans are derailed due to miscarriage, cancer, abnormal uterus, or any other trauma that would preclude the woman from carrying a pregnancy, it is viewed as a loss. It’s the loss of a dream, an expectation that when the woman is ready for her body to be pregnant that her body will work. When kids are young, they rarely expect the need for someone else to carry their child.
When children are born via Gestational Surrogacy, or Gestational Carrier, (used interchangeably), having a baby is no less special than a natural birth for the entire family. Gestational Surrogacy is defined as transferring an embryo created by two others (intended mom(s), intended dad(s), egg or sperm donor) into a carrier or surrogate to assist in carrying the baby to birth. The gestational surrogate is in no way genetically related to the baby.
Very few people choose third party reproduction unless something went very, very wrong, or another perspective is the case of a same sex male couple where they have no other choice but to work with a surrogate. Judaism refers to building a family as a Mitzvah (a good deed), and Jews are actually commanded to “Go forth and multiply.”
Branches of Judaism and Prospective Beliefs Regarding Surrogacy
Infertility was mentioned in the Torah, as three Matriarchs suffered from infertility; Sarah, Rivkah, and Rachel, so obviously there are many Judaic perspectives. Judaism has a number of branches; Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, and Orthodox. Each branch sets its own standards for surrogacy.
Judaism follows a maternal lineage, so the question of “Who is the mother?” is a very important question. Halachic law states that the woman who gives birth to the baby is the mother. However, there are obviously several interpretations based on each person’s religious perspective. Questions clients often ask, “Does my surrogate need to be Jewish?” and/or “Should they be single or married?”
As a surrogacy agency, we hear these questions often. Unfortunately, there is no one definitive answer. If we lined up five Rabbis, we would most likely get five different answers. Our clients typically come to us ready to have a baby. Fertility treatments have already delayed those plans, and any further delays can create additional consequences such as the loss of ability to use one’s own genetics. Our process is designed to be as streamlined as possible to get you to your goal with the utmost efficiency.
Everyone Deserves the Right to Pursue Family
Most Rabbis have kept up with modern technology and understand the logistical aspects that we as the agency know all too well. Education is still needed, by groups such as Hasidah that provide educational seminars to Rabbis of all branches. Locating a Jewish surrogate, for example, can take months if not years, when other surrogates take only weeks to locate.
Is Conversion an Option?
For many, conversion is an option. The process of conversion for a baby is as simple as hosting a bris and taking the baby to a mikvah. The psychological aspects of conversion for some is an issue. If you and your spouse are Jewish, and intend to raise the baby as part of the Jewish faith, many question why a conversion is necessary.
What We Recommend
We recommend that you consult with your doctor and if you are advised that you might benefit from a surrogate, that you speak with your Rabbi. Talk with your partner or just ascertain the right route for you, based on your religious beliefs and the realities of the surrogate industry. Talk with a trusted agency to get a sense for how to process all of the information. Then ask to create an individualized plan tailored to your specific needs.