The phenomenon of Orthodox single women who choose to have babies on their own has been around for a while. Gilit Chomski of Ynet interviews some of the mothers, as well as rabbis who have ruled on the subject. A few passages in the long article that stood out for me.
First, there was this:
[When] the eldest and beautiful daughter of a religious family with an aristocratic rabbinical background in a city in northern Israel . . . realized that her time was running out and [she] couldn’t find a match, she waited for her last sister to get married so as not to ruin her matchmaking, and took action. She looked for a dance club in the city and went out there once or twice, until she met a good-looking secular man. She waited seven clean days, went to the mikveh, and got pregnant once or twice later. When the guy accused her of deceiving him, she admitted that she simply wanted a child. Today that child is married with children and is a prominent figure in the sector.
When I first read it, I found the idea astounding: A woman who has been raised her whole life to be celibate and not even touch a man before marriage, meets a man in a dance hall for the purpose of getting pregnant, then returns to a celibate life (presumably). But if the child is already grown this happened a while ago and is probably more common than I realized.
Chomski also brings up the psychological health of children raised by single mothers:
The child’s welfare may not be the banner the objectors seek to raise. A study published by the National Academy for Parenting Practitioners in Britain showed, for example, that the most successful children – both intellectually and psychologically – were raised by two mothers. Moreover, there are children who have already grown up and live among us, and we could just ask them. S., who is married to a man who was raised by a single mother, says frankly, “Naturally, I thank God for his birth, but it’s apparent that he was not raised in a regular family. He’s hurt. He doesn’t have intuitions which come naturally for others. He doesn’t really know what a man does. “When we had a child, things were very difficult for me after the birth. The burden was not shared between us naturally. He wanted to do everything that I did, and it suddenly occurred to me that he sees his fatherhood as motherhood.”
Finally, there is the question of whether a halachic ruling allowing women to conceive without getting married should have been publicized. Some rabbis criticize Rabbi Yuval Cherlow for publicizing his lenient ruling, instead of permitting single motherhood privately on a case-by-case basis.
Perhaps it’s easier to allow it in utmost discretion, without requiring a declaration which undermines the values of the traditional family.
[Rabbi Cherlow responds] “If this is Halacha, why hide it? A halachic debate must be public. The burden of proof lies on those seeking to hide. Beyond that, lack of publicity gives the Rabbinate a great amount of power. This is not a desired situation. The right situation is an open debate, while dealing with the questions being raised. In addition, the absence of a clear statement sometimes generates urban legends, which have nothing to do with reality.”
According to Rabbi Cherlow, the connection between Halacha and science must be public as well. “There is a rabbi who offers women an alternative in the form of freezing eggs until they reach an old age. I find this outrageous. First of all, it’s an illusion. The chance that 10 eggs would be removed from a 37-year-old woman’s body and that one of them would conceive a child is zero. Second, it puts the woman in danger. We are talking about very unpleasant months for the woman, to say the least, under general anesthesia and a life-threatening situation, not to mention the immodesty in the entire process.”
What about the child’s benefit? There are those who say this is cruel.
“I find this argument invalid. The child’s benefit is a modern-Western argument, which does not exist in Judaism and doesn’t hold water. There’s no doubt that the best thing for a child is to grow up in a regular family with a father and mother, and there is no argument about that. But can anyone guarantee anything to a child born to a regular family? I can give you 10 types of normative families, which could have allegedly been forbidden to have a child because it’s not in his benefit.