The politics of 'The Natural Family' in Israel: State policy and kinship ideologies

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Israel is the only country in the world that provides nearly unlimited, universal state funding for fertility treatments. This exceptional policy has been widely understood as symbolising the state's pronatalism. In this paper I probe the policy and assess medical experts' practice to show how a specific modality of pronatalism-enhancing 'the natural family' concept-is being construed through legislation and practice. Policy analysis discloses how the relatively efficient and safe technology of donor insemination has been devalued as a last resort solution to male infertility, to be applied only after all 'natural' alternatives have failed. At the same time, in vitro fertilisation (IVF), despite its health risks and lower efficacy, is proactively encouraged through various policy measures including unrestricted public funding. Interviews with practitioners reveal that similar preferences are enhanced through the infusion of secrecy and shame into donor insemination, coupled with active support of IVF. To complete the picture, Israel's adoption law is outlined, showing tight restrictions on domestic adoption and complete lack of state support or subsidy for inter-country adoption. I suggest that both the marginalisation of non-genetic forms of kinning and the emphasis on IVF indicate a state interest in upgrading the 'natural family' so as to nurture a geneticised notion of the local Jewish collectivity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1018-1024
Number of pages7
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 2009


  • Adoption
  • Donor insemination (DI)
  • Family
  • Genetics
  • In vitro fertilisation (IVF)
  • Israel
  • Kinship
  • Policy
  • Reproductive technologies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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