Between Mothers, Fetuses and Society: Reproductive Genetics in the Israeli-Jewish Context

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Studies have shown that Israeli women and the Israeli legal, religious and medical establishments are exceptionally supportive of reproductive genetics and its outcomes, in the form either of selective abortions based on the unborn child's prospective health, or of prevention of carriers of the same recessive genetic anomaly from marrying each other. While reproductive genetics has been intensely criticized throughout the western world, criticism has been more or less absent from Israeli-Jewish society. Indeed, Israeli women are heavily pressured to engage in the selection of their embryos, or, in the ultra-Orthodox community, to marry according to "genetic compatibility." Where other theories understand this as deriving from collective ideals of bodily perfection that push for the selection of future generations, I ask why inhibitions concerning Prenatal Diagnosis (PND) and its more immediate meanings are lacking. In order to answer this question, I draw on culturally specific Israeli-Jewish understandings of such issues as the biocultural concept of "life" and that of a "life worthy of living" versus "wrongful life"; the moral standing of the fetus and its mother; and Jewish-Zionist attitudes towards science, medicine and eugenics. Reflections offered in this essay draw upon my recently completed doctoral research comparing the fields of reproductive genetics in Israel and Germany.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129-150
Number of pages22
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2006


  • Abortion ; Bioethics ; Children ; Disabilities ; Disease prevention ; Eugenics ; Fetus ; Genetic disorders ; Genetics ; Human genetics ; Human reproduction (Jewish law) ; Jewish culture ; Jewish law ; Medical genetics ; Medical genetics -- Israel ; Pregnancy ; Womens studies


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