Religion and ART: Two Jews and Three Opinions?

There’s been extensive discussion in the comments on an earlier post about a teacher fired from a Catholic school for using ART.   I just posted an update–the teacher won a jury verdict.   But I wanted to take this in a slightly different direction.

In the comments someone linked to this essay which I had been meaning to write about.   It’s from the New York Times and the title gives a fair view of the topic:   “What Makes A Jewish Mother.”

Caren Chesler, who wrote the essay, gave birth to a child using an egg from an anonymous provider.   The question she focuses on is whether her son is considered to be Jewish.   In general, the child of a Jewish mother is Jewish–it’s matrilineal.   But is Chesler the mother in terms of Jewish law.

I really do think I could have answered this question without doing a whole lot of research:  It depends who you ask.   Chesler talks about a general consensus that existed in the 1990s that the woman who gave birth is the mother–but I wonder if that really was such a clear consensus.  As my title notes, with two Jews you can get three opinions, so I’d bet there were some rabbis in the 1990s who disagreed with what may well have been a majority view.      In any event, it is clear that there’s a range of views on the question now.   This has come up here before, in a slightly different context.   The question in that earlier post is whether you could pay a premium to get eggs from Jewish woman.

In any event, it isn’t my intention to discuss the intricacies of Jewish law here.   That’s way beyond my competence.   Instead, I just wanted to offer a couple of observations.

First, you can see that Jewish law stands in contrast to Catholic teaching to the extent there is official Catholic doctrine on ART while most rabbis have their own takes on Jewish law.  There’s a much broader diversity of views, though I think it safe to say few rabbis rule out all ART in the manner that Catholic teaching does.

This leads me to the second and more important observation:  Even if you consider only a religious framework, there are many different ways to approach the questions raised with ART.   You could say the woman who gives birth is the mother.   You could say the woman who provides the egg is the mother.  You could say they both are mothers.   You could probably say that neither of them are mothers.  Or you could say that in order to tell which of the two women is the mother you need more information–like what the intent of the women is.   (Is the woman providing the egg an egg donor or an intended parent?  Is the woman who is pregnant a surrogate or an intended parent?)

I enjoy the conversations that go on here on the blog.  They push me to think about different points of view that I probably don’t take into account nearly enough.   But I don’t think one can really hope to reach agreement on the answers to questions like who is the mother.   It all depends on what you value, what you believe and/or what you assume.

This is why I think it is incredibly important to identify beliefs and assumptions and to scrutinize the logic of arguments.   We can agree that arguments be sound and that assumptions be clearly identified.   But it doesn’t seem likely to me that we’ll all agree to start with the same assumptions and values, and so it’s hardly likely we’ll end up in the same place.


66 responses to “Religion and ART: Two Jews and Three Opinions?

  1. Both the egg donor and the woman who gestated the child and gave birth could be considered to be the mother. In a sense, both are mothers. From what I’ve seen, both the egg donor and the woman who gave birth would have to be Jewish for the child to be considered Jewish by all. Therefore, giyur would be desirable and perhaps required if the donor is not Jewish.

    • Certainly this is the view of some rabbis, but it isn’t the view of all rabbis. Which really is my point–opinions vary–and here I mean opinions of rabbis.

      • While that’s true, you only need “some rabbis” to question your Jewishness for you to have a problem. I’m wondering if kids conceived with the help of a non-Jewish egg donor could have trouble making Aliyah later in life, for instance? I guess not, if the use of an egg donor was not disclosed — the social mother appears on the birth certificate with no mention of the egg donor.

        If the egg donation were to be disclosed by someone else, though, this could be an issue. Here, (a European country with a very small Jewish population) one needs the “Jewish municipality” or however that would really translate to English to help get your papers in order to realize your Right of Return. It’s hardly unlikely that someone would point out that the person was conceived through egg donation.

        Why would a parent place his child in that position when conversion is the option that removes all questions about the child’s Jewishness? (OK, ideally. With the way conversions are going, those can be questioned by the Rabbinate in Israel too.).

        • I think the conversion question is a tricky one. I think about what would happen if I discovered that my mother’s mother (who died when my mother was young) wasn’t Jewish. I think that would mean from a technical point of view, I’d have to convert? I find that absurd and would probably resist doing that. Given your last parenthetical (which I think is a good question to raise) I’m afraid I would go to all the trouble of converting and still find rabbis who weren’t satisfied. I could imagine that I’d decide that I don’t care to put myself (or my child) in that position–having to please some rabbi who probably doesn’t approve of my whole “lifestyle” anyway. But I’m really just musing.

          • I recently read about a case like that on the internet. A boy studying at a yeshiva found out that he was adopted and his parents never converted him. He was horrified, and didn’t want anyone else to find out. It was on one of these anonymous “ask the rabbi” sites, and the (Chabad) rabbi answering the boy’s question suggested that he speak to his rosh yeshiva about it, to see if the conversion could be done “quietly”.

            In this case, I think I’d be more likely to be outraged my parents didn’t tell me the truth, than outraged that I’d have to convert to something I thought I was all along.

            • So let me get this straight is maternal bloodline to jews what babtism is to catholics? Something you have no control over yourself indoctrinates you or grandfathers you into the religious sect. Your a catholic if you were babtized and can produce a certificate or if you can prove you are the child of people who belonged to a parish you can get the certificate requirement waived.

              • I’d rather compare Jewishness (as opposed to Judaism) to being a citizen of any country. You can become a citizen by birth (including if your ancestors acquired the citizenship but had another citizenship originally), or by meeting certain conditions.

                This is relevant to ART too. I guess an egg-donor conceived child would get the social mother’s citizenship without difficulty, while an adopted kid from another country would have to go through some type of procedure before acquiring citizenship. The egg-donor conceived child may be subject to the same, IF its origin were known. I don’t know this, but it seems logical.

                Now, the question if whether or not you’re Jewish is more complex than whether or not you’re American, say — because there is no single judicial body that governs the rules. I think Reform Jews believe children with only a Jewish father are Jewish, for instance.

                Personally, I’m opposed to hiding a child’s origins in any case. I understand Julie doesn’t see a genetic link as all-important. Apparently, genetics only matter if you don’t know your true origins and can’t find out.

                • It is interesting how language is truly the vehicle of thought and sometimes it drives us far from understanding. The way the words genetics and dna are used, you’d think we were talking about a thing and not a who. People without offspring and those who pander services to them have used these words as if they are describing hand tools or data mining software instead of human beings.

                  To use a cell is to use a person. If they consent it is their action their reproduction, if they don’t consent, its still their action, against their will, by force but still their action. Think of pushing someone on a swing, they are swinging you are pushing – you want them to swing so you push but it is them swinging not you. All these people talk about the genetic histories of these kids we are not talking about some tool they have some reference manual. Truth is a persons “genetics” are specific identifiable nameable people 2 parents 4 grandparents 8 great grandparents etc – Those little genetic markers, those blips on the radar, those are people and that is their contribution to the unique formula that is you. Our dna is not a tool its an address book filled with the identities of the individuals that made us. No genetics is not what makes a person a parent – we all have genes there is nothing special about that. Being the source of another person’s genes that is what makes a person a parent and differentiates them from a stranger on the street or from say an uncle.

            • I think I’d feel the same way as J. As a matter of fact, I’d probably stop identifying myself as Jewish. Interesting the variety of responses.

    • Thanks. It is interesting indeed. It looks to me like this is largely focused on the Orthodox view, but I am by no means sure of that. Certainly it is this view that has lead to increased demand for Jewish eggs, which leads to questions about differential pricing, etc.

      • And what is your view on all of this? You’re Jewish, right? I’d be curious to hear what you think.

        • I am indeed Jewish–Reform, if this matters to you. I don’t pretend to have any particularly sophisticated knowledge of jewish law, though. As you will find if you poke around on the blog, I am generally troubled by the attachment to genetics as defining family and, for me, that carries over here. I think a child raised in a jewish home who is herself or himself brought up to be observant ought to be recognized as Jewish without worrying too much about whether all the maternal line was properly Jewish. But I know that’s not the traditional teaching.

          • One question for you. I understand that you find genetics to be non-essential when it comes to DEFINING a family. How do you feel about a child’s (person’s) right to be aware of the truth surrounding his/her genetic origins? If genetics are not important, or not very much so, surely there is no problem in telling the child the truth?

            This mother chose to write about her experience in the internet. I assume she will be telling her child he was conceived with the help of an egg donor. I do wonder how many people using egg and sperm donors do so while planning not to reveal that to their children. I don’t agree with Marilynn that a child’s genetic parents need to support that child financially if the child is well looked after, but I do believe these children should have the legal right to know not only how they were conceived, but also who their genetic parents are/were. Anonymous egg and sperm donation makes this impossible.

            There are always two dimensions to questions surrounding ART, adoption and similar situations — the legal, and the moral. I believe not all family matters should be defined by law, but that there are still certain moral obligations that should ideally be met.

            • This question is for me, right? While I do not think that genetics should define who is/who is not a legal parent, I have been persuaded that it is important for many children to know about their genetic lineage–enough so that I would favor having this information preserved generally. I think it might be that the people who provide the genetic materials should have some defined relationship with the children–just not that of legal parent. Maybe they should have specific obligations, but I haven’t thought through what.

              Beyond that, I generally think that parents should be honest with their children about their children’s origins–be those adoption, surrogacy, IVF, or whatever. But I would leave it up to the parents to figure out how and when to provide information. My own experience as a parent is that children ask similar questions at different stages of their lives and that different answers are appropriate at these different stages. For instance, the first “where do babies come from?” question when the child is four or five doesn’t get the same answer as a similar question when the child is 14.

              I think insisting that genetics is crucial to legal parentage has the counter-productive effect of making people more ashamed/insecure and less likely to be honest with their children. I like to think that if people weren’t threatened by the genetic forebears that they’d be more inclined towards honesty. I do think that is the trend, and for single parent or same-sex parent families it’s sort of a no-brainer. Or maybe it just isn’t a choice. After all, when two women are raising a child, no one assumes that one of them provided the sperm. For heterosexual couples that is the usual assumption and it might be a bit easier to just let it go along that way.

              • Yes, the question was for you. I’ve been following your blog for a while now, but wasn’t sure what you meant when you said you are troubled by genetics as a primary definition of family relationships. On the other hand, people like Marilynn have a very clear, straight stance that’s the same in all cases.

                I believe I my issue with your views, or rather how I perceived them, is a matter of legal rights/obligations vs moral rights/obligations. I agree that not every genetic parent is a legal parent or can be a legal parent, but this doesn’t take away that (moral) child’s rights to be aware of his/her genetic origins. Should the way in which a legal parent informs his child of its genetic origins be regulated by law? I’m not sure, though there’s something to be said for disallowing anonymous gamete donation.

                It is possible that lesbian women or single mothers have an easier time deciding how to handle providing this knowledge since, as you said, nobody will assume the sperm came from within those family units. It is therefore harder to create a situation in which the child holds false assumptions.

                • I am single and trying to get pregnant using a sperm donor and I chose an “open ID” donor which means the donor has agreed to be contacted by the child at age 18. I figured this would let my child make the choice. If my child just doesn’t care, then no harm is done, and the contact need never happen. But if it’s very important to my child, then my child will have that option. I kind of hope my child does choose to contact the donor just because I am curious about him – but obviously it will need to be the child’s decision and not mine.

                  • An “open ID” donor seems like the safest bet all around for people going to sperm donor route, no? You eventually get the information your child may really want, but you don’t get the threat of custody issues while they are still a child as you may with a known donor.

                    How are you planning to discuss sperm donation with your child? (And, how did you choose the particular donor you chose — what kind of info do you get about him?)

                  • My choice was narrowed somewhat because I carry a fatal recessive disease so I only wanted to use a donor who had been tested and definitely didn’t carry the gene.

                    Physically – I chose a donor of a similar ethnic background with a mix of physical traits that I and my close relatives (parents, siblings, grandparents) have so basically physical traits my child could possibly get from me anyway. The big difference is the donor is blonde and I’m brown haired, but that’s a recessive gene so unless I have a copy of the blonde gene from my one blonde haired grandparent, I’m expecting a darker haired child. The donor mentioned on his profile being athletic, as I am the least athletic person on the planet any help my child can get in that area would be nice (I HATED gym class so much….). I also liked the personal essay he wrote.

                    Some of the information I have about the donor: a picture of him as a baby, family medical history, number and gender of siblings, number of aunts and uncles, number of first cousins, educational background, college major, year of birth, some random things on the profile – two of his favorite foods are the same as mine, for an example.

                  • I definitely plan to be very open to my child about the fact that I used a donor, from an early age, but I am not sure yet whether to bring it up very early without prompting, or just at a certain young age if s(he) hasn’t asked by then. I definitely do not want to go years without saying anything, it’s important to me to be honest with my child and not keep any secrets.

            • J
              I’d be interested in hearing from you why it is you feel that some people don’t deserve the benefit of court approval before being raised by people who are not their genetic parents. That process is used to vet instances of trafficking. Why is it that some genetic parents dont need to go through that process before having their obligations transfered? What if they don’t want their obligations transferred? What if someone obtained their genes by fraud or accident at the clinic? What then? Should’nt there be a process after the birth of the child to ensure that these people have the same protection as adopted people? Which is no great shakes but better than donor offspring get now.

              • M (that’s Marilynn, right?), I didn’t say that I don’t see the benefit of court approval in all cases where children are being raised by people who are not their genetic parents. I said that I recognize there will always be cases in which people are raising kids who are not genetically related to them. The focus, I think, should be on these kids’ rights to knowledge about their origins rather than on financial support (which I believe you have advocated for before),

                I’ll say, though, that I live in a ;post-communist country where corruption plays a large role in all spheres of government, including the judicial system. Court approval is going to be meaningless if a judge will rule in your favor as long as you have the right connections and some money, no? I know the situation in the US is quite different, but I hardly want to give opinions about how a country of which I am not a citizen should organize their legal system. I’m talking only about moral rights, vs legal rights, for that reason.

            • J.
              “I don’t agree with Marilynn that a child’s genetic parents need to support that child financially if the child is well looked after, but I do believe these children should have the legal right to know not only how they were conceived, but also who their genetic parents are/were. Anonymous egg and sperm donation makes this impossible.”

              I think it matters how people obtain children that they are looking after. I think that is why we have the process of court approval before recognizing people a person did not originate from as having parental level authority over them while they are minors. Whether it is guardianship, custodianship, adoptive parenthood, or foster parenthood, this process of recording the identity of biological parents and the reason why they are not taking care of their child themselves protects the child from being trafficked, families from losing irreplaceable members and protects unrelated individuals from being forced to care for a child that is not their offspring without their express written consent.

              If these biological parents don’t have to be accountable to and for their offspring on formal written record then why should any biological parents have to be accountable for their offspring on any formal written record? It would be fairer to all people with offspring if none of them owed any duty to their offspring and it would be fairer if all of us as offspring had no legal expectation of physical or financial support from the parents we originated from. If it is good enough for donor offspring then lets make it good enough for everyone. We’d save a bundle of money there would be no more adoptions at all people would work the details out amongst themselves about who was or was not a parent privately. They could just transfer title to minor children the way you might transfer title to a car or boat. You can do this on line now you dont even need to visit the DMV.

            • J if you were told you had the rest of the afternoon to select a person or a couple to raise as-of-yet-unborn person to adulthood – they told you you could select from a room full of people who had paid an application fee or you could select someone all on your own….what would you do? How much care and consideration would you give the placement of that child? Would you want to know more about these people other than they really wanted a child and paid a fee for one?
              That is gamete donation

              • A gamete is not a person — it just has the potential to contribute in a way that may or may not create a person. I dislike gamete donation, and particularly anonymous gamete donation, but it is happening and it will have to be dealt with in some way.

                In this particular case, the question “Is this child Jewish?” became inevitable once the child was born.This question needs to be addressed whether or not those addressing it are in favor of gamete donation. The question of whether gamete donation is acceptable needs to be addressed separately.

                • Oh J
                  A person who does not want and intend to have offspring would not donate their genes for reproductive purposes now would they? No so it is them, their will, their choice and their action to reproduce to create their offspring. Other people may influence that decision but it is their body that reproduces. If they did not want offspring they could donate for research only. They sign contracts agreeing to reproduce themselves and they also secondarily agree not to be responsible for any offspring born of those agreements.

                  Have you ever bought a ticket to a show in advance? The person that sold you the ticket was not just selling you a little piece of paper were they? You the buyer expected entry into the show at some point in the future right? If you were not giving them a seat at a concert you would not buy the ticket would you? There are all sorts of pre sale contract examples in every day life to compare this to. Its pay now for services performed later. So pay me now to abandon my children later if any are born.

                  They sign contracts giving up parental rights to any children born of their reproductive agreements. The buyer would not want their genes if the seller did not abandon the resulting baby.

                  • Indeed, a gamete CAN contribute in such a way that produces a person, and that is the whole idea with gamete donation. Still, you referred to gametes as “a person” and that just isn’t accurate. If you had referred to pre-birth adoption agreements as an agreement in which a person is sold, this may be accurate. A gamete could be called half a person, but only if conception actually happens.

                  • J.
                    A gamete is part of the person it came from and should be treated with the same respect as we would afford the rest of a persons body. My hand if severed from my body is still my hand. My liver transplanted into someone else’s body is still my liver, it’s just operating in support of someone else’s life not mine. I’m letting them use my liver so they can stay alive. It’s not their liver theirs is all screwed up or they would not need mine.
                    The gamete is not the donors offspring and I never eluded to that. The term gamete donor is an accurate description of one of the two things they are required to do under contract 1 is give up their gametes and 2 is give up their child. The title does not describe the more important of the two actions. So certainly gamete donation for reproductive purposes entails giving up their children. If it did not entail that then nobody would want their gametes. Can’t get stuck in the trap of people saying that gametes are not babies. Of course not.

                  • Well, I should hope they aren’t kids or I’d have 30 kids. or 22 if you count the ones that actually fertilized. Who knows how many are even left now. Reproduction is a tricky process.

                    Then again if they are kids I want my 22 child tax credits :-p

                  • Rebecca if they harvested 22 or 30 eggs from your body you should at least be aware of the possibility that you might end up with children in this world that you are not raising yourself without ever having given your permission. It’s not crazy conspiracy talk its just a matter of practical math and very low risk in ever being found out. I think anyone who entrusts their genes to a clinic for any reason should join FTDNA or 23 and me because they continuously update your relative list forever and if any lots of donor offspring join hoping. Look at UC Irvine, hundreds of people’s kids were lost in that scandal and dna databases are the only way those families will ever be reunited.

                  • They triple check everything and what theywould lose froma lawsuit would outweigh anythingelse anyway.Besides, if you want to trickpeople you would say theyhaveless not more.

  2. Julie – Thank you for bringing attention to the NYT blog. I did leave a comment which was published ( Below are my comments:

    “As a Jewish Reproductive Endocrinologist, I’ve been following this debate closely.

    A curious theoretical argument could be made. Imagine the child in utero needed organ transplants to survive. Essentially half of all of the weight of the child was changed out with a set of non-Jewish organs. Imagine the child conceived by a Jewish father, survives, is delivered by a Jewish mother and then thrives in a Jewish home. Is anyone really going to claim the child is not Jewish because half of the organs came from someone not Jewish? Is there any difference when half of the DNA in the child comes from a non-Jewish egg donor?

    Understanding that being a Jew is often interpreted a mixture of religion and ancestry, in this particular situation, there should be no confusion regarding which religion dominates in the home and the life of the child.

    Lastly, it becomes almost impossible to use the Old Testament to guide scholars on this topic as the concepts of sperm, eggs and DNA were foreign when it was written. It was one of the reasons that in days past, a child born of a Jewish mother was considered Jewish in all respects, regardless of the father’s religion.

    I contend that we should stay with the intent of the Old Testament and allow a child born of a Jewish mother be considered a Jew in all respects. Let’s not quibble about the origin of the maternal DNA but focus on the paternal Jewish contribution and the intent of the family to raise a child in a Jewish home.”

    Julie, I believe there are answers here although there is certainly room for alternative perspectives and opinions.

    Take care-

    Craig R. Sweet, M.D.
    Embryo Donation International, P.L.

    • the discussion of these rabbis focuses too much on whether he kid is jewish, with too few rabbis wllng to discourage the entire practice altogether. this is prbably because judaism is so pronatal and god answering the barrrn woman is such a recurrimg theme.

      • ur really too cool you know?

      • You’re quite right that Judaism is strongly pro-natalist and I think there are a lot of reasons (which I won’t go into) for that. I think all the major branches of Judaism allow for use of at least some ART under some conditions–and that is quite different from the Catholic teachings. I don’t think it is chance that Israel is a major fertility tourism destination and in general the national laws there strongly support the use of ART.

        It makes perfect sense to me that, having decided the process is acceptable under Jewish law, the rabbis would then focus on the “who is Jewish” question. That’s one of the core rabbinic questions that has been subject to discussion for centuries.

    • There’s a lot of complexity here, and in some ways it is reminiscent of debates around the Indian Child Welfare Act. In the way that it is passed on from parent to child Judiasm is, in some fundamental way, tribal. Is one raised in the tribe but not born to the tribe a tribal member? Not in the traditional view–you are born into it by virtue of your mother’s bloodline. But as you note, who is a mother has become a much more complicated question than it once was.

    • I find it interesting that a Jewish Reproductive Endocrinologist chooses to use the term “Old Testament”.

    • “Imagine the child in utero needed organ transplants to survive. Essentially half of all of the weight of the child was changed out with a set of non-Jewish organs. Imagine the child conceived by a Jewish father, survives, is delivered by a Jewish mother and then thrives in a Jewish home. Is anyone really going to claim the child is not Jewish because half of the organs came from someone not
      Jewish? Is there any difference when half of the DNA in the child comes from a non-Jewish egg donor?”

      Dr. please retract that statement. You are a medical doctor trained in the field of reproductive medicine and you know full well that a donated egg reproduces the donors body, and not the body of the woman that hosts the pregancy. You know full well that genetic relatedness is not measured by the lb – ALL of the child’s major organs could be removed and replaced with organs from donors and it would not have the slightest impact on the amount of genes that child has in common with his mother because the organ’s are not his they belong to the bodies they came from and the child would not absorb the dna out of the donated organ nor would the organ absorb the child’s dna. The child would not be any less related to his mother if half his body weight was in donated tissue because he originated from his mother and so whether its one strand of hair or a drop of spit the amount of relatedness is not smaller based on the size of the sample.

      If these rabis are concerned with proving bloodlines then of course you can’t count the woman who gives birth if she is not related to the child she delivered. I’m talking about race alone because clearly if a person is raised in the jewish faith that is their religion and that’s that. I think the issue might be that they don’t want people falsely claiming to be jewish the race without proof.

      Kisarita what about these days where a person can prove that they are jewish the race but on their father’s side only. So many people whose parents donated their genes turn out to be VERY jewish on their fathers side. So clearly it is a fact that they are Jewish by origin. Does the organized religion like to pretend people are not the race they are or is it more like you just don’t get special privileges? I only recently found out Jewish was its own race on top of religion. When I took my dna test I found out I’m part Arab yemin but not jewish. People I help have dots on that same exact part of the world map but theirs says they are Jewish.

      I thought I was straight red-haired Irish. Arab was a surprise.

      • Sperm banks consider Jewish biological heritage to be an ethnicity regardless of where the sperm donor got it from. So a man whose Jewish biological relatives were paternal would be considered Jewish by the sperm bank and any genetic testing would include diseases Jewish populations are more likely to carry.

        I’m Jewish, but not very religious, and I assume the “rule” is a holdover from a time where you couldn’t prove who was the biological father but the woman who gave birth was definitely the biological mother.

  3. My parent's donor is my father

    There have been many logical rational arguments as to how and why this practice is out of balance and harmony (harm done) with human nature and societal structure that, beyond a reasonable doubt, this practice is seriously problematic and should not be encouraged. It’s not even a question of assumption or personal values.

    • I think that questions like “what counts as harm” and “is this harm greater than that harm” are often questions of assumptions and values, just as I think often the question of “what is best for this child” depends on what we think “best” means. Perhaps, too, there are things that are theoretically knowable that we just do not know (yet?). I really do think it is hard to make arguments in this area that aren’t resting on assumptions at some point. So I think we all get to make assumptions–but it’s best if we say clearly what they are.

    • My parent's donor is my father

      No Julie, there are clear documented harms done. These are not assumptions or a matter or values. Beyond a reasonable doubt.

  4. My parent's donor is my father

    Dr. Sweet,
    Just out of curiosity, do you facilitate ‘motherless’ conceptions as well? Such as this:

    I wonder if there are any Jewish laws that address this sort of family building?

    • I’m guessing here, but it seems to me that whether the child is Jewish will (at least in the eyes of some) turn on whether the woman who provided the egg and/or the woman who was pregnant was Jewish. The Jewishness of the man isn’t important.

      I don’t know more generally about the rabbinic views of surrogacy generally, much less gestational surrogacy, but I’m willing to take a guess that views vary.

      • My parent's donor is my father

        And is that woman who provided the eggs or the woman who provided the womb, the mother? Jewish and beyond Jewishness.

        • My parent's donor is my father

          Is this child truly motherless?

          • My parent's donor is my father
            • Do you mean do I care that there are people out there who are born of surrogacy for whom their origin is a source of hurt? Yes. I do care. And I want to understand what it is about the circumstance that causes them pain, because there are also people born of surrogacy who are happy and well and comfortable with their origins. What makes the difference? And I’d like to know how many of the former there are vs. how many of the latter.

              To make a rough analogy–there are unhappy adoptive children and there are happy adoptive children. Surely we should work to understand what makes the unhappy children unhappy so we can improve the outcomes for adoptive children in the future. So, for example, I think we’ve learned that openness and honesty on the part of the adoptive parents is important. That’s an important lesson and I think one that has been taken to heart. We can help adoptive parents do what is best for their children.

              We should also pay attention to the overall proportion of adoptive children. If we found that the vast majority of adoptive children were being harmed by the process, then perhaps we would have to reevaluate the process. But if only a relatively small percentage are harmed and if we can think of ways to ameliorate the harm, then maybe we keep going with adoption but try to improve it. Does this mean that there will never be bad outcomes in adoption? It does not. There will be. That, I’m very sorry to say, is inevitable. I don’t think we can ever achieve or even hope for perfection. And we need to live with that understanding.

              • My parent's donor is my father

                This response is offensive. Non disclosure of harms cancels disclosed testimony of harms out. That’s just offensive. And this discussion is a waste of my time. No further comment.

                • My apologies as I certainly did not mean to be offensive. I am not sure what the sentence about “non-disclosure of harms…,” means. We certainly have to take harms we know about into account.

              • I find your script on harm Machiavellian things ever written on the subject of donor reproduction because its crafted to steer offspring towards making a loosing argument for themselves. You frame their argument for them based on criteria outside of law and then invite them to stand upon this shoddy platform when they tr to defend their demands for changes in the laws. It’s like you’re mocking them. I find it cruel beyond belief.

                for them while they are trying to defend their opinions

          • I actually have a rather complicated view on this that I won’t explain at length in a footnote–you can search the blog under “motherless” and might find some of what I’ve written.

            Legally the child may be motherless–it depends on the law of the states involved. Socially any child raised by a single father would be practically motherless–though there are many ways you could get to that place. (A mother could die, for instance.)

            • Julie a woman that gives birth privately and hands the child off in a black market adoption is not ever legally recorded as the child’s mother and therefore never has any parental obligations in the eyes of the law. She won’t raise the child. You are saying she is not the mother of the child she delivered and that the child did not loose anything by the transaction because she never had any legal status as mother/

              • Actually your assumption is incorrect. She is a mother in the eyes of the law and has legal obligations as a parent. She could be possibly be criminally prosecuted for the actions you describe (handing the child off). The fact that it isn’t recorded doesn’t change her legal status.

                • What? So the fact the male is not recorded does not change his status either – that is why the language in the code is so specific about locating the genetic father to obtain his consent to an adoption and then if they can’t figure out who or where he is they formally go through a termination procedure for the rights of the estranged father. Even if I think that is horrid to the child that their parent’s obligation to them is extinguished for lack of performance rather than simply held out that the child is due something from the parent they simply extinguish it. Your always acting and saying that being genetically related to a child as father does not give the man any parental obligations – but it does even if he is not named by the time they figure out who he is they will charge him for back child support because he always was the father and always had the obligation because the child is his offspring regardless of anyone else recognizing him as such. So my point Julie is that you are always pretending that genetics alone does not make a man a legal father when it most certainly does and in the law, not just in my mind or some fabricated moral structure that you build to undermine my argument and the argument of anyone else who is actively seeking access to contact with and information about their father and his family. I think that is the basis for this website, this your lab is to test what happens when you repeat a falsehood long enough over and over will people simply accept the falsehood as fact and assume their views are uneducated and unfounded by anything other than religion and mystical thinking. That sucks Professor. Is it legal research your going for or psychological or like a brainwashing hybrid?

                  • It’s hard to give a simple answer here, but perhaps the best place to start is that legal motherhood and legal fatherhood have often been determined differently. After all, the sine qua non of legal motherhood was (historically) giving birth and that meant she was around when the child was born. But there might be no man around and if there was his biological/genetic relationship to the child might be anything.

                    In any event, simply being list on a birth certificate isn’t usually something that gives legal status. A man’s name can appear on a birth certificate and he can successfully deny legal parentage. Or another man might be able to establish legal parentage.

                    The one thing that might matter is a form called a VAP–a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity. If a man and woman fill this out (answering truthfully) this can have the effect of making him a legal father. But it isn’t a birth certificate.

                    I’m not sure any of this is really responsive, but it’s quite a complicated area.

  5. My parent's donor is my father

    RE: Dr. Sweet’s ‘theoretical argument’: Imagine a woman who has brown hair and then colors it blonde. Is anyone going to say that she is not blonde? Imagine an animal egg that is fertilized by human sperm (or vice versa), gestated and born, is anyone going to say it is not human?

    • On the hair color question: It depends why you want to know. If someone is meeting her for lunch and I’m giving a description of her, then I will surely say she is blonde. And I think that’s accurate. On the other hand, if she’s offering her eggs as an egg donor then I would not say she is blonde–because on a genetic level (which is the level people would care about when buying eggs) she isn’t blonde. I am not sure what this shows, exactly. I suppose it goes to why am I interested in her hair color–appearance (in which case she is blonde) or genetics (in which case she isn’t.)

      I’m quite sure that some people would say the chimera in your second question is not human. Again, I’m not sure what this shows, though.

      • My parent's donor is my father

        Seriously, wow, I don’t understand how you cannot see, clearly see, how this is all connected. I’m too frustrated to respond further other than to put this as simply as possible:
        Don’t mess with mothers/fathers/siblings/family/ancestry/identity. Don’t mess with human.

        Mess with it be warned – this isn’t progress – it won’t accepted – it will always be challenged and never allowed to be normalized.

        Regardless of the law.

  6. My parent's donor is my father

    Define Jewish. Define mother. Define father. Define sibling. Define incest. Define marriage. Define family. Define ancestry. Define heritage. Define human. Define relativism. Define nihilism.

    Define blonde.

    If it all means anything then it all really means nothing. No shared common human meaning.

    This is beyond a law issue.

    Connect the dots.

    We are loosing our grounding.

    • I do think it is the case that many of these terms are (at least in the view of many people) subject to competing definitions. Certainly what it means to be Jewish is–and has been–subject to competing definitions for many centuries. Do you mean to suggest that there should be a single fixed meaning that we all agree to?

      “Father” is a term that has had changing meanings for many generations, too. And it is subject to many modifiers–genetic father, social father, psychological father, adoptive father, legal father. some I think might have fixed meanings–we probably can agree on what “genetic father” means. But some–“legal father”–are by definition malleable–a legal father is a man recognized in law as a father. But law can vary. It has changed and will do so. So what it means to be a legal father varies over time and over space. (Change states and your legal status may vary.) Still, perhaps we agree on what it means to say someone is a legal father even if we don’t know what the law is.

      For millennia a woman who gave birth was a mother, but not everyone would say this is true now. And the rise of technologies that separate genetics from pregnancy make it a new question. I think it unlikely we will come to an agreement on an answer to this in my lifetime.

      Blonde seems to be the oddest one on your list, actually. Have we ever agreed on what it means to be blonde?

      I don’t know that this means we are losing ground. It means there’s a lot we need to think through, discuss and try to reach agreements on. At the very least, clarity in law would be good. I don’t see any virtues to uncertainty.

  7. My parent's donor is my father

    You are talking past my point. I’m talking about roots as in grounding to our human nature and human ancestry. To redefine these terms is to throw our very human nature, natural grounding to the wind. I too do not see ANY virtues to uncertainty. Which is why I very much do not agree with your advocacy. But then again, the law has never been very good at defining right vs. “rights”. And why I do not hold the law in much esteem on these issues. Just because you can does not mean you should.

  8. So, does going through a pregnancy with a child who is not genetically related to you make the child more “your child” than adopting a child would do? (If so, why?) From what the author says about adoption, she seems to think so. I think she is deluding herself, though I agree that going through pregnancy might make bonding easier, and the child is probably related to her husband.

    Gestating a child may make it easier for a woman to see herself as the mother of the child, but that doesn’t mean the child will agree of course. I find the whole idea offensive, both to adopted children (who’d definitely require a conversion to be Jewish, so therefore are “not the Jewish social mother’s children”?), and to egg donor children (the social mother got pregnant and her name appears on the birth certificate, so she can forget about the source of the egg).

    • It doesn’t mean you’re genetically related, although there’s some interesting research in epigenetics to suggest that the same embryo, implanted in different women’s wombs, would produce a different person because different genes would be switched on or off within the womb depending on the womb environment during gestation. That research does make some women who get pregnant with donor eggs, and their partners, feel a closer physical link than there is, if you just take genes into account.

      • I’ve asked several physicians and Mama Gaitlan this question and cannot get an actual answer maybe you know.- which genes does the unrelated pregnant woman switch on or off? How much less genetically related to the mother is an infant when carried by another woman? Is their longest block of shared cm less than 227.6? Or the total shared less than 3380 cm? In what way is the mother less related to the child delivered by the surrogate than had she delivered herself?

        • I don’t think anyone can answer this question yet. Epigenetics is a branch of science that is in its infancy. I think the general idea, though, is that the raw material of DNA/genes isn’t the sole determinant of how the person develops. The same bits of genetic code can lead very different places depending on epigenetic effects.

          I don’t think it means you’d say that the child is genetically related to the woman who carries a pregnancy begun with an egg that didn’t come from that woman. That woman who is pregnant does not contribute genes. But she does have a profound effect on shaping the child–much more than we understood even five years ago.

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