Supplementary Material

Shouldering Moral Responsibility: The Division of Moral Labor among Pregnant Women, Rabbis, and Doctors

By Tsipy Ivry and Elly Teman


ABSTRACT This article contributes to the anthropology of morality through an ethnographic focus on the consultations of religiously observant Jews with rabbis and medical specialists regarding dilemmas surrounding prenatal diagnosis of fetal anomalies. Our ethnography looks at religious couples who consult rabbinic authorities on their reproductive dilemmas rather than making autonomous decisions and the procedures of decision-making that rabbis enact. We examine the rabbis’ emic practice of dividing moral labor and outsourcing it in a chain reaction to various medical and rabbinic experts. The purpose of outsourcing moral decisions and aggregating expert opinions is to lighten the heavy weight of moral responsibility for consultees as well as for the rabbinic consultants. In seeking expert consultations, people might actually be opting for liberation from freedom of choice—at least as defined in the model of autonomous decision-making—rather than merely submitting to an authoritative doctrinarian power, whether of religion or biomedicine. [moral labor, religion, prenatal diagnosis, biomedicine, Orthodox Jews]


Where reproductive medicine and rabbinical authority meet. (Courtesy of authors)

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