After a man and wife had several children, would it be permissible for a man or woman to be sterilized?

Any scriptural proof to show whether or not it is allowed?


Rav Hershel Schachter writes at length about it here.

He writes at a basic level:

The common American practices of "tying the tubes" of a woman or performing a vasectomy on the man are biblically forbidden (Shabbos 110b).

He then explores doing it through medication:

However, the permissibility of sterilizing a woman through medication is explained by the Talmud (Shabbos 111a) to apply only in such a case where the husband will not be prevented thereby from fulfilling his mitzvah of Piryah V'riuyah. Even in that case, the Acharonim debate the nature of this permissibility. Most feel (See Otzar Haposkim to Even Ho'ezer in note 77.) that non-surgical forms of sterilization are not forbidden for women. Some, however, rule that there still exists a rabbinic prohibition which may only be lifted if the woman is known to suffer unusual pain at childbirth. According to this view, this Heter (lenient ruling) is similar to the law allowing violation of rabbinic prohibitions on Shabbos for the sake of a sick person (Choleh She'ein bo Sakona) even though there is clearly no danger of life or limb. "In a situation of pain (tza'ar) the Rabbis did not insist upon the observance of their prohibitions." (Kesubos 60a)

The Talmud relates (Yevamos 65b) that the wife of Rabbi Chiya suffered unusual pain during childbirth. She drank a special potion of herbs to make herself sterile, without the previous consent of her husband. The Chasam Sofer (Quoted by Pischei Teshuvah to Even Ho'ezer (5, 11, and 232). See also the Avnei Nezer, Choshen Mishpot. no. 127. where the same distinction is made.) points out that such action would only be allowed in Talmudic times, when her husband would have the option of marrying another wife if he desired more children. The wife's causing herself to be sterile did not interfere with his ability to fulfill his mitzvah. Today, however, since we no longer allow polygamy or divorce without the wife's consent, it is understood that when a couple marries, the wife obligates herself to assist her husband in fulfilling both his mitzvot of Piryah V'rivyah and Lo'Erev al larlach yodecha (See Lev Avraham (#99) where this point of the Chasam sofer is explained at length. See also Avnei Nezer, Even Ho'ezer. no. 79 where he assumes that even during Talmudic times the same was true). She may therefore not cause herself to become sterile or practice any form of contraception without the consent of her husband (Regarding temporary use of contraceptives by the wife, without the permission of her husband, see Chavazelet Hasharon, Even Ho'ezer pgs. 229-231.).

His take on the man taking medication:

Modern medicine has developed an oral medication to be taken by the man which causes temporary sterility. Since causing sterility in the male is forbidden even by "drinking a potion," would causing temporary sterility also be included under this prohibition? Dayan Ehrenberg has written a lengthy responsum, (D'var Yehoshua, vol. III, Even Ho'ezer, no. 7) concluding with a lenient decision. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (Even Ho'Ezer, vol 3, no 15. See Chazon Ish, Nashim 12) assumes that causing sterility is only forbidden when the potion the male drinks affects the reproductive organ directly. But to cause even permanent sterility by affecting other parts of the body would not be prohibited. Other contemporary Poskim question the validity of both of these lenient decisions.

Finally, the question of whether it considered like self-harm:

It should be borne in mind that the case specifically mentioned in the Talmud allowing non-surgical sterilization of a woman was in a situation where this was medically recommended. Rabbi Chiya's wife suffered great pain during childbirth. However, if the non-surgical sterilization is done for non-medical considerations, some Poskim (See Torat Chesed, Even Ho'ezer, no. 44, section 41.) have pointed out that this would constitute a separate violation of Chavoloh - one is not allowed to mutilate his own body (Bava Kamma 91b). Even the slight act of self-mutilization involved in donating blood to the Red Cross is a serious question dealt with by contemporary Poskim (See Igros Moshe, Choshen Mishpot, no. 103; Pischei Teshuvah to Yoreh Deah chap. 151, section 15.).


In principle, this is forbidden. See Shabbat 110b, which derives the prohibition from Vayikra 22:24.

Rambam rules as such in Hilchot Issurei Biah 16:10-12, as does R. Yosef Karo in Shulchan Aruch Even HaEzer 5:11-13.

See there for discussion of distinctions between sterilizing males and females, and between more or less direct forms of sterilization.

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