Israel to Permit Sperm Donation for Women Denied Divorces

Under the current policy, women whose husbands refuse to grant them a religious divorce require their husband's permission to receive a sperm donation and undergo in vitro fertilization

Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz.
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati

Women denied a religious divorce would be eligible to receive sperm donations under a reform being advanced by Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, despite the vehement opposition of Israel’s Chief Rabbinate.

Horowitz instructed ministry officials to change the protocol in order to include these women on the list of those eligible for sperm donation in order to become pregnant. The change is expected to take effect within a few weeks.

Currently, a married woman needs her husband’s approval in order to undergo in vitro fertilization. Women who are denied religious divorces are considered married by the rabbinate, which prevents them from undergoing IVF. Under the new protocol, these women would be eligible to receive a sperm donation from a stranger in order to undergo IVF after presenting a document from the National Insurance Institute attesting to their status and thus not be dependent on their erstwhile husbands.

“In this regard, as with every medical issue, the only factors the Health Ministry should take into consideration are professional and health matters. Nonmedical considerations are not relevant for the ministry, and we’ll drop them,” said Horowitz. The reform was first published by the Walla news website.

The reform does not have backing from Israel’s religious establishment, which may prevent religious Jewish women, including ultra-Orthodox women, from taking advantage of the change.

Israel’s previous government tried to advance this reform as well. Mavoi Satum, an advocacy organization working on behalf of women denied religious divorces, lobbied former Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and his ministry director general as part of the process.

Then and now, government officials lobbied Israel’s chief rabbis so that children born through the process would not be considered bastards from a religious standpoint. The rabbis refused.

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