God-Sent Ordeals and Their Discontents: Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Women Negotiate Prenatal Testing
Social Science & Medicine, Vol. 72, pp. 1527-1533, 2011
7 Pages Posted: 17 Feb 2012 Last revised: 19 Feb 2012
Date Written: May 6, 2010
Through narrative interviews with 20 pregnant ultra-orthodox [Haredi] Jewish women in Israel conducted between 2007 and 2009, we examine the implications for such women of prenatal testing, and of pregnancy as a gendered route of piety. We found that pregnancy signified both a divine mission and possible reproductive misfortunes. Bearing a child with a disability was taken as a test of faith and God’s decree was to be accepted. Fetal anomaly created anxiety about the women’s ability to fulfill their Godgiven task and about their position in an unwritten hierarchy of gendered righteousness. Challenging reproductive decisions were often assigned to rabbis, but this did not exempt women from viewing themselves as inadequate in their religious devotion. We conclude that prenatal testing becomes a spiritual ordeal that aggravates pregnancy tensions.
Keywords: Israel, prenatal diagnosis, religion, ultra-orthodox Jews, women, collective reproductive histories, hierarchies of piety, maternal subjectivity
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