Friday, January 13, 2006

S*x in Halakhah

Yes, this is the post you've all been waiting for. The post in which we have a frank discussion about... Read more

As someone correctly guessed in a comment to an earlier post, this post is about choosing the sex of a child. Is it halakhically permissible to choose the gender of your child in advance? Given today's technology, if you are using it due to need, it is possible to ensure that you are having either a boy or girl. Is this objectionable?

R. J. David Bleich, in his Judaism and Healing: Halakhic Perspective (2002 edition, ch. 22) makes a number of cogent points. First, it is clear that the Talmud offers on more than one occasion advice on how to conceive specifically a son, based on timing or behavior (cf. Nidah 70b-71b, Bava Basra 10b). If that is the case, there is clearly no objection to intentionally trying to orchestrate the conception of a child of a specific gender.

If that is the case, and no other laws are being violated, then presumably one would be allowed to preselect the gender of a child. R. Bleich is very emphatic that one is not obligated to do so. For example, a couple with a daughter is not obligated to ensure that they have a son next in order to fulfill the commandment to procreate that includes having at least one son and one daughter. (See also here and here)

However, R. Bleich states that society's allowing the preselection of gender "would undoubtedly lead to a sharp increase in the number of male births. This phenomenon would inherently lead to grave sociological repercussions." Therefore, as a matter of public policy, he opposes the practice.

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