Sunday, June 17, 2012

Halachic Infertility

The Jewish laws of Ritual Purity state that a woman after her "unclean period" must wait a full week, dip properly in a ritual bath (mikvah) and then has two weeks of free and clear Rabbinically sanctified sex.

That would be nice if all women had a 28-30 day cycle;  with girls getting their periods earlier than in the past, at the average age of ten instead of 12 or 13, and with the extension of fertility well into the 40's, that is no longer the case.  In fact, I have a very short cycle (23-25 days), and it took many attempts in terms of the timing in order to become pregnant, and stay pregnant with Raphaela.

An article in The Forward today addressed this issue, women who ovulate while still in that week long period of "niddah "(post period impurity) and community Rabbis who would not dare to amend the status quo, even on a case-to-case basis.  The article quotes my very excellent and capable GYN here in Jerusalem, Dr. Daniel Rosenak;  an Orthodox man himself, he suggests that the standard revert to pre-Talmudic guidelines, thus allowing a woman to go the mikvah before one week, in sync with her individual cycle.  Another suggestion involves a woman receiving IUI (presumably with her husband's sperm) at the peak of ovulation and before the mikvah, because it doesn't count as actual sex; though some Orthodox Rabbis worry for the spiritual harm to the potential child's soul, and the halachic issue of "spilling seed."  (Because men don't masturbate, ever, right?!)

I commend the Orthodox community for dealing with the issues of fertility in a more direct and public manner, because there is no reason for a woman to suffer quietly or feel shame about her body for no reason.


Philo said...

Here's what I wrote about this topic last October:

There have been various solutions proposed. Some poskim find a loophole that allows the woman to go to the mikvah earlier. That is a compassionate stance.

But there are also those who work with doctors to prescribe drugs such as Clomid to delay ovulation. But medications have side effects as well as long-term health risks. In the case of Clomid, there’s even an increased risk of ovarian cancer.

Is that really ethical to prescribe such medications? In my opinion, any doctor who prescribes medication (with all the side effects and health complications) to a perfectly healthy woman because of her religious beliefs is guilty of a violation of his/her Hippocratic oath.

And any rabbi who tells a couple do this is unethical as well. That makes halacha, which is a beautiful thing, warped and ugly.

Doc said...

Totally agree Philo. I always find it somewhat ironic that in topics like this, it is Orthodox Rabbis who have the monopoly on the decisions. Men, who will never get their period or be pregnant, who tell a religious woman that she has to suffer and expose herself to harm because the halacha says so. (At least the non-compassionate halacha)
Here's my theory, a man should carry his unborn son/daughter for one week during the pregnancy, during the sixth or seventh month when the fetus starts to put pressure on the body. I predict that after that experience, there will be a lot less war and conflict, and a lot more understanding of the human condition.

Doc said...
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Robyn said...

i Have always had an issue with this topic. having had my own issues conceiving and rabbis refusal to help my situation. i find this monopoly on the woman's body to be insane.

Amy Charles said...

I don't understand why anyone continues to pay attention to these men. Truly don't. To tell yourself that they have some sort of lock on truth, when it's so blindingly obvious that they can't even get something as unmissable as menstruation timing right, strikes me as...what. Masochism? A form of an abuse syndrome?

Amy Charles said...

And Philo, no, it's not compassionate to make women go looking around for a "loophole". What nonsense. And I don't see why compassion's needed, rather than respect. Respect for the realities of women's bodies.

Does anyone know the names of organizations devoted to helping women who manage to leave these communities? I know that there are organizations that help Orthodox women who've suffered physical abuse, but it seems to me that if you grow up inside an ultra-orthodox community, and you recognize the fact that you're being chronically maltreated and try to leave, you're going to have serious trouble functioning outside. I'd be happy to help as far as I can.

Amy Charles said...

Robyn, what can the rabbis do? They're not endocrinologists.