(2) When more than one fertilized egg is implanted into the woman, this may result in a multiple pregnancy. When there are three or more fetuses growing in the womb, this results in a high-risk pregnancy, and fetal reduction, or selectively eliminating one or more of the fetuses, may be recommended. Is this halachically permissible? Ending the life of a fetus is not considered murder by halachic definition, but it is not permissible either. This would only be permitted if the doctor has determined that some fetuses must be eliminated or they will all die. Even then, the decision is a very sensitive one and must be made by the doctor.

(3) When IVF is performed, the woman is stimulated by hormone treatment so her ovaries can produce up to twenty eggs per cycle. The eggs are harvested and fertilized, but only three or four can be used in that cycle. The rest can be preserved by freezing. How does Jewish law address the issue of extra embryos? The fate of extra embryos could include: (A) Use of them by the original couple to establish future pregnancies (rabbis affirm this use). (B) Destruction of the extra embryos (permissible halachically if this is done passively, by letting them thaw out and die on their own). (C) The use of these extra embryos for research. Since this is an active process and results, ultimately, in their destruction, this is not generally acceptable by Orthodox rabbis. (D) Donation of the extra embryos to another infertile couple. This option is not approved by many Orthodox rabbis because the "adopted" child may inadvertently marry his/her genetic sibling, resulting in incest.

(4) Although most IVF labs are reputable and try to be meticulous in keeping track of the sperm, eggs, and embryos of each couple, over the years some mistakes have been made. Even worse than inadvertent errors, are the cases of deliberate tampering with sperm, eggs, and embryos that have been discovered in unscrupulous fertility labs! Since parentage is of vital concern, some Orthodox rabbis would like to see trained supervisors present during IVF of Jewish couples. One such arrangement has been made between the Star-K Kosher Certification and a New York clinic. The supervisors will reportedly be present during the entire procedure to ensure that halachic protocol is followed, and that meticulous attention to the accuracy in the process is maintained.

Donor Sperm and Eggs

The issues involved in using donor sperm or eggs can create halachic problems. Artificial insemination has been performed for many years, and the question of the halachic validity of this procedure has been discussed by many sources. It is clear that more rabbinical authorities approve of artificial insemination if the husband's sperm is used (as long as it is not wasted in the process; there are special devices recommended by rabbis for collecting the sperm in as natural a way as possible). However, the idea of using donor sperm has not been accepted by many rabbis. While the use of donor sperm is not considered adultery per se (since sexual relations are not involved), it is still considered an abomination by many, and is strongly discouraged. Rabbinic sources generally agree that paternity is determined by who provides the sperm, so that a baby conceived from donor sperm would not, halachically, be considered the child of the infertile husband.

When an egg donor provides an egg for an infertile couple, the recipient, usually a sterile woman who cannot produce eggs, serves as the gestational and birth mother and she gives birth to and raises the baby as her own. In this case there are two categories of motherhood: a genetic mother, and a gestational/birth mother. These -- now separate -- functions can be performed by two different people, who may or may not be related to each other and may or may not have any connection with each other (other than their individual contributions to producing and raising the child).