In bYevamot 65b there is a discussion as to a woman's mitzvah obligation (or not) to have children. The gemarah cites an episode of a woman who had an (unusually?) painful childbearing experience who was told a woman (in her situation?) is not obligated to bear children. She then, seemingly with permission, goes and drinks something which sterilizes her.
My questions are:
- Do any sources cite this story as precedent for contemporary halacha - meaning allowing a woman in a similar situation to sterilize herself (or have a doctor perform a procedure which sterilizes her)
- It is common knowledge that most, if not all, women experience pain during childbirth - does the dispensation cited in this story apply only to this woman's unique case or would it apply to any woman who has already born 2 male and 2 female children (as this woman had) and wants to avoid the pain of childbirth?
- Do any commentators and/or halachic authorities consider the pain this woman was seeking to avoid as psychological pain (fear/anxiety)?
Full story from Sefaria
יְהוּדָה וְחִזְקִיָּה תְּאוֹמִים הָיוּ, אֶחָד נִגְמְרָה צוּרָתוֹ לְסוֹף תִּשְׁעָה, וְאֶחָד נִגְמְרָה צוּרָתוֹ לִתְחִלַּת שִׁבְעָה. יְהוּדִית, דְּבֵיתְהוּ דְּרַבִּי חִיָּיא, הֲוָה לַהּ צַעַר לֵידָה. שַׁנַּאי מָנַהּ, וַאֲתַאי לְקַמֵּיהּ דְּרַבִּי חִיָּיא, אֲמַרָה: אִתְּתָא מְפַקְּדָא אַפְּרִיָּה וּרְבִיָּה? אֲמַר לַהּ: לָא. אֲזַלָא אִשְׁתְּיָא סַמָּא דַעֲקַרְתָּא.
The Gemara relates that Rabbi Ḥiyya’s sons, Yehuda and Ḥizkiyya, were twins, but one of them was fully developed after nine months of pregnancy and one was fully developed at the beginning of the seventh month, and they were born two months apart. Yehudit, the wife of Rabbi Ḥiyya, had birthing pain from these unusual deliveries. She changed her clothes to prevent Rabbi Ḥiyya from recognizing her and came before Rabbi Ḥiyya to ask him a halakhic question. She said: Is a woman commanded to be fruitful and multiply? He said to her: No. She went and drank an infertility potion.
לְסוֹף אִיגַּלַּאי מִילְּתָא. אֲמַר לַהּ: אִיכּוֹ יְלַדְתְּ לִי חֲדָא כַּרְסָא אַחְרִיתָא, דְּאָמַר מָר: יְהוּדָה וְחִזְקִיָּה אַחֵי, פַּזִּי וְטָוִי
Eventually the matter was revealed, and Rabbi Ḥiyya found out about what Yehudit had done. He said to her: If only you had given birth to one more belly for me, i.e., another set of twins. As the Master said: Yehuda and Ḥizkiyya were twin brothers and became prominent Torah scholars, and Pazi and Tavi, Rabbi Ḥiyya’s daughters,
were twin sisters, and became the matriarchs of families of distinguished Torah scholars.