Does Jewish Law or Tradition Offer Any Guidance on Contraception?

Article excerpt

INDEPENDENT

Judaism does not restrict a woman in regard to her choices concerning pregnancy She has a choice to bear children or not to bear children (Tahmid Bav'li, Yevamot 65b; Mahar'sbal in Yam Sbel Sblomo 1:8). The injunction to "Be fruitful and multiply," the ancient rabbis ruled, does not apply to women, because the Torah does not ask someone to do something that might endanger his or her life and health. On the other hand, a man who has not yet brought children into the world (ideally at least one of each gender) may not use contraception unless the woman he is with faces some sort of danger to her life or health. Coitus interruptus in the course of lovemaking, however, is permitted if its intent is incidental and not deliberately intended to prevent pregnancy (Tasefot Ri'd on Yevatmot). There are enough classical halachic opinions regarding allowable methods of contraception to cover most contemporary methods, but BBCC & CR is no space to elucidate them here, best to consult your rabbi.

Rabbi Gershon Winkler

Walking Stick Foundation

Thousand Oaks, CA

HUMANIST

Secular Jews are not influenced by traditional edicts to "IK fruitful and multiply" or "not to spill one's seed." How ever, we do recognize that there are benefits to contraception, including female health, family planning and disease prevention. In the end, I Humanistic Judaism takes the position that individuals will make their own decisions as to which birth control methods, if any, they wish to use. This is not a privilege but a right that needs to be protected.

We are living in an age that the ancient rabbis or even our great-great-grandparents could not have imagined. Premarital sex is commonplace today, it not encouraged, as part of building a relationship with a caring partner. Promiscuity is equally prevalent. "Friends with benefits" is a phenomenon of our time. Even the idea of marriage for love and as a sexually exclusive monogamous relationship is relatively modern.

Perhaps it would lie easier to live in a less complicated rime. But the clock can't be wound lack. And so we need to face all these modem and often complicated choices with as much wisdom and caution as possible. Which, in many instances, includes the wise-use--and easy availability--of contraception. Rabbi Peter H. Schweitzer The City Congregation for Humanistic Judaism New York. NY

RENEWAL

When it comes to methods of both contraception and assisted fertility, bioethics sources with bin Judaism are copious. The consensus as with abortion, is that the physical and mental health of the mother comes first. A society or corporation that restricts access to medic-ally safe abortion or contraception is one in which Jews are not free to practice their religion.

In a free society, the decision of whether, or when, to have children is a matter of individual conscience. Jewish law and tradition take into account the stress upon partners and existing children when excess family size or timing might impair the development or well-being of the parents or existing children. (See Ray Moses Trani, Kiryat Sefer on Yad, Is-surei Bi'ab, 21; "Contraception within Can-temporary Orthodoxy," by Gedalia Meyer and Henoch Messner and Integral Halachah: Transcending and Including, by Rabbis Zalman Schachter-Shalomi and Daniel Siegel.)

Across the spectrum of Jewish practice, the accepted and/or endorsed circumstances for and types of contraception and fertility assistance vary greatly and are-considered on a situation-by-situation basis. While the trauma of infertility and the intention to "beautiful and multiply" are honored throughout the Torah and Jewish history itself there is no explicit prohibition against contraception within Tbrah. Methods that prevent conception rather than "spilling seed" are preferred by some, so IL'Ds and the pill are most often pre-scribed where this is a consideration. …