What Is Human Artificial Insemination?

Article ID: DD135 | By: Scott B. Rae

The following is an excerpt from article DD135 from the Christian Research Journal. The full PDF can be viewed by clicking the link below the excerpt.


HUMAN ARTIFICIAL INSEMINATION

Artificial insemination is a relatively simple procedure in which sperm, either from the woman’s husband or a donor (if the husband is unable to produce sperm), is inserted into the woman’s uterus directly rather than through sexual intercourse. It is normally the first infertility treatment a couple will try because it is simple to accomplish, involves no pain for the woman, and is inexpensive compared to other reproductive technologies. It is most often employed when a woman’s husband has a low sperm count, or his sperm has difficulty in reaching the woman’s egg. When the woman’s husband’s sperm simply needs help in fertilizing the egg, artificial insemination by husband (AIH) is performed. Most people have no moral difficulty with such a procedure. It is simply viewed as medical technology providing assistance to what could not be accomplished by normal sexual intercourse. The genetic materials that are combined when conception occurs (and frequently it takes more than one insemination for conception to occur) belong to the woman and her husband, and they are the ones who plan to raise the child. Most people agree that there are no morally significant differences between AIH and procreation by intercourse. The exception to this is the Roman Catholic tradition, which views most reproductive interventions — including contraception — as a problem (see below). There are many cases, however, in which the husband is not able to produce sperm at all. In these cases, instead of artificial insemination being performed with his sperm, a donor provides the sperm. This is called artificial insemination by donor (AID). The donation is almost always made anonymously so that the father cannot be traced by the child, nor can the father elect to make contact with the child, potentially disrupting a harmonious family. In most cases, the sperm of two or three donors is mixed together, thus making it easier to conceal the identity of the father. AID raises ethical questions that are not raised by AIH. Since AIH takes place between husband and wife, the integrity of the family is maintained, and there is continuity between procreation and parenthood. But AID introduces a third party into the reproductive matrix, and someone who donates sperm to be used for AID is now contributing genetic material without the intent to parent the child that will be produced through the use of his genes. The assumption of Scripture is that children will be raised by the people to whom they are genetically related. The Bible assumes the concept that only husband and wife will be parents of children. There is a continuity between the genetic and social roles of parenthood. The Bible never clearly defends this notion; it simply assumes it. Perhaps the reason for this is that it is a notion that does not need defending, similar to the doctrine of the existence of God.Of course, Scripture could not directly address situations in which these reproductive technologies were available. But even though techniques like AID are not the subject of direct biblical teaching, there are biblical principles that can be applied to these different methods of alleviating infertility. Christian tradition on the family, for example, has always assumed that children will be born into a stable family setting of monogamous marriage in which sexual relations between father and mother result in the child’s birth. The principles underlying such an assumption are the integrity of the family and the continuity between procreation and parenthood. Adoption is widely recognized as an exception to the general rule, or an emergency solution to the tragic situation of an unwanted pregnancy. Just because the exceptional case is allowed, however, that does not justify it as the norm.

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