Reproducing Jews: A Cultural Account of Assisted Conception in Israel
Glad, John, Mankind Quarterly
A Cultural Account of Assisted Conception in Israel
Susan Martha Kahn
Duke University Press, 2000
This is an important book that did not attract the attention that it deserved when it originally appeared - largely because it was put out by a university press which does not have distribution muscle.
While written on a popular level, this is a revealing book on Israel's pronatalist policies. At the time the research was done during the mid 1990s - there were more fertility clinics per capita in Israel than in any other country in the world (four times the number per capita in the United States). Every Israeli is eligible for unlimited rounds of in-vitro fertilization treatment free of charge, up to the birth of two live children. The costs of such treatment can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. By contrast, contraceptives are not generally part of the basic basket of medical services covered by Israeli health insurance, and abortion, though legal, is subsidized only if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, if it threatens the woman's life, of if the fetus is suspected to be malformed physically or mentally 197).
Since the majority of Israeli Jews are atheists, it is not surprising that the traditional stigma associated with out-of-wedlock births has lost much of its negative force. Thus many of the women receiving aid in conceiving are unmarried. Most of those interviewed were upper-class Ashkenazis with college or even graduate school training. In cases where the husband's sperm is not viable, donors are often medical students (36), and they fill out extensive health histories. The State supplies the sperm, which is screened for Tay-Sachs. …