Before I turn to the recent comments I wanted to put up a short post about this news items, which fits nicely with yesterday’s post. As you can easily see, yesterday’s post was about how new technologies have brought us the ability to freeze human eggs for later use. This development will almost assuredly lead to egg banks that more clearly resembles sperm banks and, one would think, a market for eggs that more clearly resembles the market for sperm.
But the ability to freeze eggs opens other avenues besides those that lead to commercial markets. As the article I linked to shows, Orthodox rabbis (at least some orthodox rabbis) are encouraging women to freeze their own eggs for later use. And it makes sense to me that they would do so.
For (some or many? I do not know) Orthodox Jews, a child is Jewish only if the egg from which it developed was from a Jewish woman. Further, Orthodox women are expected to marry and to have children–often many children. Of course the children as supposed to be Jewish and ideally, genetically related to her. So what is a woman who is aging but not yet married to do? Her potential as a spouse diminishes with each passing year as her fertility diminishes.
Having her eggs frozen solves the woman’s problem. Once frozen the eggs will keep–we may not know for how long but at least for a while. It’s almost like an insurance policy–if she marries and is unable to conceive because of age, she has younger frozen eggs to use. If she can conceive in the ordinary fashion, the frozen eggs need never be used.
There’s still a commercial market of sorts here–someone charges money for the retrieval of the eggs and for their storage, I’m sure. But it’s a much less problematic one. This is clearly fee for service.
It’s also noteworthy for a point which might be obvious but which I will make anyway. Religious traditions take quite different stances vis-a-vis ART questions. I’ve noted in the past that the Catholic church opposes using IVF, even when a husband and wife use their own genetic materials to create a child. I suspect Catholic teaching would also condemn freezing eggs as described above, as some will never be used and will eventually be destroyed. Certainly the destruction of extra embryos is unacceptable in Catholic thought.
By contrast, Orthodox Jews (or at least some Orthodox Jews–Judaism is much less hierarchical than Catholicism and different rabbis, even different Orthodox rabbis offer different interpretations of Jewish law) embrace ART, promote freezing eggs and/or embryos, and are unconcerned by the possibility that excess eggs and/or embryos will be destroyed.
I am hardly in a position to say that one view is better than the other. This is not my point at all. Rather, I want to note that despite some common underlying principles, two widelyl recognized religions offer quite different teachings on the acceptability of ART. With that in the background, how surprising is it that there’s such wide disagreement within our society?
I’ll stop here. But this seems a fitting post to end with wishes for a sweet new year, for those of you who celebrate the new year tomorrow evening. L’Shanah tova.