Photo: Ofer Mayer
Shaare Zedek Medical Center
Photo: Ofer Mayer

Artificial insemination? Only for religious marriages

Shaare Zedek Medical Center refuses to provide artificial insemination services to couple married not in accordance with Jewish law

What does artificial insemination have to do with the way two people chose to be married? The Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem apparently refuses to provide artificial insemination services to couples who were married not in accordance with Jewish law.


A man and his wife, who approached the hospital with a request to undergo an artificial insemination procedure, were rejected because they were married in a civil marriage abroad and not by the rabbinate.


The couple, who was surprised by the hospital's position, turned to Ynet. Asked for its response on the matter, the hospital told Ynet that the incident was a mistake and that the couple would be able to undergo the procedure.


It later turned out, however, that the hospital had no real intention of honoring the couple's wishes. Only 10 days after apologizing and saying that it was a "mistake", a senior doctor told the couple: "If you don't have to undergo the insemination here, it would be better if you go to a different hospital."


The man and the woman, both aged 34, were married in the woman's country of origin out of ideological reasons, and were later registered as a married couple at the Interior Ministry.


They are both divorced and the woman has two children from a previous marriage. The couple tried to conceive a child, but to no avail.


"We quite quickly understood that there is a problem. We didn’t wait too long and had a checkup," they told Ynet.


The doctor who treated the couple at the clinic also works in Shaare Zedek, and was the one who referred them to the hospital.


Hospital rabbi disapproves


"After we arrived at the hospital for the first time, the doctor told us that there may be a problem and that it is not certain that the hospital rabbi will approve the treatment, because we were married abroad in a civil marriage ceremony," the couple said.


Two days after their first visit to the hospital, the couple was told that the hospital rabbi refused to approve their treatment.


"They told us that they provide service to the entire population, but Jews are required to be married in a religious marriage," the husband said.


"The truth is that it's a bit insulting and the feeling that our marriage is not recognized hurt us. In addition, a hospital, which is a private business, is supposed to provide service to everyone. There is some discrimination here," he charged.


It is important to mention that there is no clause stating that only married women are eligible for State-funded insemination treatments; such treatments are offered to single women and even to widows asking to be impregnated with the frozen semen of their deceased husbands.


Following Ynet’s investigation the hospital’s deputy director, Yossi Shemesh was quick to deny any discrimination.


“This was a mistake by a young doctor,” he said. “The couple will be able to get treatment here, like other couple who were married abroad.”


'We do not have the authority to intervene'


Shemesh added that the couple is scheduled to appear before a committee that is expected to approve their treatment.


“The hospital rabbi is not the sole decision-maker. There is a hospital committee that approves inseminations. The rabbi’s opinion was heard, but the hospital acts in accordance with the patients’ rights,” he said.


Shemesh even said he would contact the couple an “rectify the mistake.”


But 10 days after the couple received the negative answer and were not approached by any hospital representative, they turned head of the insemination treatment unit at Shaare Zedek, professor Margaliot, who, according to the husband, told them “If you do not have to undergo the treatment here it is best that you try another hospital.”


“We feel as though we had been shrugged off, and it is very insulting,” the husband said. “This is discrimination, which can perhaps be explained legally but is very problematic from a public standpoint. We have no interest in fighting this issue as we do not want to delay the treatment.”


“I have no interest in receiving treatment from someone who doesn’t want to provide it for me; we will seek treatment at another hospital,” he said.


Surprisingly, the Health Ministry showed understanding in the face of the hospital’s claims.


“If this would happen in a government-owned hospital we would act against it, but in a private hospital we do not have the authority to intervene,” a senior ministry official said.


“The hospital is permitted, for conscience reasons, not to perform a procedure that isn’t urgent. Shaare Zedek does not perform pregnancy terminations either, and we cannot force them to do so.” 


פרסום ראשון: 03.05.06, 16:20
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