Be Fruitful and Medicalize: IVF Risk Communication and the Politics of Assisted Reproduction in Israel




Senior Lecturer, Critical Writing Program

Project Summary


This past summer, I conducted ethnographic fieldwork in Israel for my senior honors thesis in Health and Societies thanks to the generous funding of the Gelfman International Summer Fund and other research grants. My research focuses on the political, religious, cultural, and social factors shaping the way in which in vitro fertilization (IVF) providers in Israel communicate the risks of IVF to their patients. Israel is a pronatalist (birth-promoting) country in which the government funds virtually unlimited cycles of IVF to all women until they have two children with their current partners. During my literature review, I read several studies suggesting that physicians in Israel downplay IVF risks and overstate IVF success rates. However, no study to date had explained the factors which contribute to these phenomena. My thesis thus contributes original scholarship by identifying three key factors shaping provider-patient IVF risk communication in Israel.

Due to the Gelfman funding, I was able to commute to and from many hospitals throughout Israel to interview 21 IVF providers. Through my fieldwork, I found three key factors shaping provider-patient IVF risk communication in Israel: 1) pronatalism, 2) a state-funding policy allowing repeated cycles of single-embryo transfers, and 3) the gender of the physician. This research experience has enabled me to engage extensively with the medical, women’s rights, and academic communities in Israel, three communities I intend to continue to connect with in my future research and career. This past summer has really been pivotal in my intellectual development. The research I conducted will culminate in my senior thesis in Health and Societies which I will submit to the department in December 2017. I will subsequently submit my work for publication, as it provides a significant original contribution to the scholarly conversation on IVF in Israel.

I have become passionate about conducting international research in multiple languages (Hebrew and English) and hope to continue to conduct research on infertility and fertility policy in different societies. I am very thankful to the Gelfman International Summer Fund and to CURF for supporting me generously in this endeavor.