I just heard Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks talks on the radio (BBC 4) about the passing of Robert Edwards, one of the creators of in-vitro fertilization (IVF) techniques. Sacks argued that for the Jews, IVF is regarded as a great help in God’s work.
I appreciate the significance of IVF and the huge difference that it has made in enabling women, who wanted to, to have a child. However, it is exactly this Jewish attitude which can bring unhappiness to women who are still unable to conceive or, God forbid, choose to remain childless
In Israel the Ministry of Health finances 4 IVF treatments for enabling the birth of a first and second child in a family, and after that it allows 8 more in the following two years.
With such endorsement why would any woman remain childless? It assumes that given a choice, any woman would want to have a child.
While I am grateful for the support of the Israeli government, which gives an equal chance to every woman regardless of her economic situation, it also shows the priorities of the society and its leaders. I often feel that my country is more ready to invest in children yet to be born than to help the children who are already here and need our financial help.
Since today many women try to become mothers later in life, IVF is especially critical. For them, the emotional and physical toll of the procedures is a small price to pay and they do it readily. But if the treatment fails, women feel the pressure to keep on trying, often harming their health and putting a strain on their relationships. Israel is a child-centered society, and these women are reluctant to give up on what they believe to be their only chance for happiness.
Still, even in Israel, like in the rest of the world, some women prefer not to have children. They have no doubt seriously considered it and decided that motherhood was not for them. For reasons that have to do with our religion, recent history, and demographics, not having a child in Israel is regarded almost as a betrayal. It is not a private matter but rather a matter of public duty.
Public leaders like Rabbi Jonathan Sacks should be more careful when they speak. Not everywoman is able to or wants to have a child. Can’t we just respect her decision and make sure that we let her feel like she has made the right choice for her?