Artificial insemination is employed in cases of infertility or impotence, or as a means by which an unmarried woman may become pregnant. The procedure, which has been used since the 1940s, involves injecting collected semen into the woman's uterus and is performed under a physician's supervision.
Artificial insemination raises a number of legal concerns. Most states' laws provide that a child born as a result of artificial insemination using the husband's sperm, referred to as AIH, is presumed to be the husband's legal child. When a child is born after artificial insemination using the sperm of a third-party donor, referred to as AID, the law is less clear. Some states stipulate that the child is presumed to be the legal child of the mother and her husband, whereas others leave open the possibility that the child could be declared illegitimate.
Artificial insemination has grown in popularity as infertility becomes more prevalent and as more women opt to become single mothers. Eighty thousand such procedures using donor sperm are performed each year, resulting in the births of thirty thousand babies. By 1990 artificial insemination was a $164 million industry involving eleven thousand private physicians, four hundred sperm banks, and more than two hundred fertility centers.The practice of artificial insemination is largely unregulated, and secrecy surrounding the identity of donors and recipients is the norm. Surveys of parents indicate that most do not plan to tell their children the circumstances of their births. This raises ethical questions about the right of an individual to be informed about his or her heritage. People who inadvertently discover they were conceived through artificial insemination often experience distress and feelings of confused identity. Many doctors compound the problem by failing to keep records on the identities and medical histories of donors.
The legal minefield created by artificial insemination continues to erupt with new and...