Hello! My name is XX and I am a fifth year medical student in Sydney Australia. I was involved in the Schlesinger Institute's summer program a few years ago. I have just started an eight week rotation in obstetrics and gynaecology and have some shailas based on some of the expectations of the department over the next few weeks.
1. Is there a Halachic issue with me assisting in non-Halachically sanctioned abortions or sterilisations? Most of the patients seen at this hospital are not Jewish. If I am not allowed to participate, is there a problem if this means that my non-Jewish study partner will be assisting (at least in the abortion) instead of me, considering that according to the Sheva Mitzvot Bnei Noach, abortion is Assur for non-Jewish people? (at least according to my understanding)
2. Is there an issue with me giving advice on contraception to patients?
3. Is there an issue with me discussing abortion options with/for a patient who has a fetus with some developmental defect? (again in a case where it is not Halachically sanctioned) I would appreciate it greatly if these questions could be answered as soon as possible, as any of these situations may be coming up in the next couple of days. Thanking you in anticipation. Sincerely,
1. A Jew is prohibited to perform halachically unwarranted abortions also on a non-Jewish patient.
Non-Jews are also prohibited to perform halachically unwarranted abortions; the prohibition is even more severe than that of a Jew. (See Rambam Hil. Melachim 9:4; Nishmat Avraham C.M. 425:2 (Eng.) Vol. III, p. 282; Igros Moshe C.M. 2:69)
As such, there is a prohibition of lifnei iver for a Jew to cause a non-Jew to sin. However, this applies only when causing directly, but lifnei d'lifnei (secondary causing) is permitted. (Avoda Zara 14a; Y.D. 151:1) Furthermore, you do not have a requirement of rebuke to prevent a non-Jew from sinning. (Shach Y.D. 151:6) Many authorities also permit assisting, when not to the degree of lifnei iver. (See Rama Y.D. 151:1; Magen Avraham O.C. 347:4)
Thus, to directly assist in the abortion would be prohibited, but to take a secondary, supportive role would be permitted. If you decline, you do not have to be concerned that a non-Jew will perform the procedure.
2. Regarding sterilizations, there is an opinion (Sanhedrin 90b) that non-Jews are also commanded against sterilization, but most authorities rule that they are not. (See Rama E.H. 5:14; GR"A 5:37; Enc. Talmudit 3:356) Thus, assisting alone would not seem an issue.
Similarly, there is no prohibition for non-Jews to use contraceptive devices, so that there is no issue giving advice on contraception. (There may be some question with reagards to certain afterward pills.)
3. Technically speaking, there is no issue with discussing abortion options, since the women herself will not directly doing the abortion (lifnei d'lifnei). However, it would be proper to mention that in addition to medical considerations, there are moral issues to consider with abortion. Even with another doctor, simply discussing options would not fall under lifnei iver.
4. In the case that the aborting woman is Jewish, it would be prohibited to assist, since she is violating lifnei iver by undergoing the abortion.
5. See also article of Prof. A.S. Avraham, Hardama L'tzorech Bitzua Hapala Melachutit, Sefer Assia #8, pp. 51-61, and subsequent articles there.
Rabbi Meir Orlian
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