Contemporary American Reform Responsa
QUESTION: A young
couple, with three children and a fourth on the way, has asked about the Jewish view on vasectomy as a means of contraception. They have been married for five years, have tried all other methods, and rejected them either as painful, dangerous or inconvenient. Does Reform Judaism agree with the halakhic restrictions on sterilization? (Rabbi B. Lefkowitz, Taunton, MA)
ANSWER: As you have stated, the halakhah prohibits
sterilization based upon the verse in Leviticus (22.24), which was subsequently discussed in the Talmud (San. 70a; Kid. 25b; Hag. 14b, 13; Shab. 110b ff); these sources prohibit the castration of male human beings as well as animals. Vasectomy is somewhat different, but the intent of removing the reproductive capacity permanently is the same. Rabbinic discussions on this matter continue and explicitly prohibit all forms of male sterilization (Yad Hil. Issurei Biah 16; Shulhan Arukh Even Haezer 5). The more recent commentaries and responsa agree (Hatam Sofer, Even Haezer #20; Noam, VoI. 1, pp. 257 ff; Otzar HaposqimEven Haezer, Vol. 1, #68 ff).
While we disagree with tradition on
matters of temporary birth control and are more permissive than many of the traditional authorities, we would agree with tradition on this prohibition against permanent sterilization. This is an irreversible act, and should not be undertaken. There are other methods of birth control which are safe and which are sanctioned by us and also by the more liberal Orthodox authorities.
If needed, please consult Abbreviations used in CCAR Responsa.