Yosef Rules Birth Control Forbidden by Halacha

Sephardic Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef has issued a lengthy halachic judgement ruling that birth control is forbidden by religious law. He declared that there is no justification for family planning even if the reason is shortage of housing and low income. The only permission to use birth control should be given to women who must not become pregnant for health reasons, he said.

Yosef also issued a call to other prominent rabbis warning against the establishment of family planning centers. “Such centers,” said Yosef, “exploit the innocence of women of Mideastern origin, teach them how to use birth control devices, and sometimes even encourage abortions.” Yosef compared this service to the advice of pharaoh to stop the birth of Hebrew first-born sons. He warned all Jewish women that “such advice contradicts our faith and the Holy Torah” and they should keep away from such centers.

Yosef also wrote that a woman who uses birth control deserves “severe punishment. The world was not created, but for procreation. The world was not created, but for procreation. “He further quoted the Jalmud Yerushalmi which claimed that God prefers procreation of the children of Israel even more than the building of the Temple.

In a first reaction to this document, Labor Alignment MK Rabbi Menachem Hacohen said that one could not deal with the issue of birth control without taking in to account the social surrounding of the woman using it. Hacohen criticized the Chief Rabbi for issuing such a statement without thoroughly consulting other rabbis as well as professionals. Furthermore, said Hacohen, most religious families use birth control, even the families of rabbis.

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