DIY Insemination, The Law And Other Things That Matter

The last few posts have been about DIY insemination, or insemination using sperm from a third party that is obtained from outside the traditional and institutionalized sperm bank system.  (I’m sorry but because I’m travelling I do not have access to solid enough internet to post links–you can just check back the last few posts.)

Anyway, you’ll see that I have expressed some concerns about DIY insemination.    On reflections, there’s something a tad surprising to me about this I am generally in favor of local growers and the like.  I shop at farmer’s markets for instance, and recently made an exception to my general use of Facebook to express unhappiness with Amazon and its attempt to annihilate local business.   None of that fits with a preference for the industrialized (if you will) sperm bank market over the local grower.    With some idle time, here are thoughts I’ve mustered.

First of all, the law is structured so that the use of a sperm bank makes this more predictable and controllable.   This isn’t coincidence, of course.  The shape of the law has been influenced by the ART industry.   If you use third-party sperm and a doctor, then in many places the provider of sperm is not a legal parent.  If you omit the doctor, that result changes in some place.  (Think California, for instance.)   This is fine if you want the third party to be a legal parent, but not so good if you were leaving him out.  (And if you look back you’ll find this is exactly what makes him a “third-party” provider–which is to say it is always a problem.)

Now you might notice, if you’re really paying attention, that it isn’t the use of a sperm bank that results in the provider being a “not a father” person.  It’s the doctor.   So you could use an individual provider and still get to the same place.   But I suspect that many (most?) people who use a local individual sperm provider eschew ART generally and do their own inseminations.   So unless the person happens to be a doctor, there’s no doctor.

It’s also worth noting that there are some states (WA, for instance) where any conception not via intercourse means that the provider is not a father. And then there are states (NY say) where the manner of conception doesn’t matter because no matter how you do it the provider IS a legal father.

This is a little tangential, but when you think about it, there are a number of ways you could group states.   You could put all those where manner of conception matters (CA, WA and others) in one group and those where the manner doesn’t matter (NY and others) is another.   Or you could put those where a doctor’s participation matters (CA and others) and those where the profession of participants is irrelevant (WA, NY and others) is irrelevant.   How you group them might depend on what points you were trying to make.

Anyway,  it seems to me that only the legal regime used in WA really favors the individual sperm provider.  In either the CA or the NY style regime, use of the individual sperm provider might signal future legal issues.   And those are issues I worry about.

They are also, it is worth saying, issues that could be dealt with.  One can rework the law–as Washington has done–to facilitate use of  individual donors.   And that’s a change I have actually advocated.

But there’s a second whole set of concerns organized around health issues.   Large sperm banks operate with practices designed to ensure health and safety in place.  I don’t mean to oversell these–I’m not saying they DO ensure health and safety, but it is their design.

The primary one might be the freezing/six month quarantine/retesting regime.   I don’t think any individual sperm providers do this.  Indeed, one of the selling points of the individual providers is that you can have fresh rather than frozen sperm.  (The conception rate is higher with fresh.)

I really do want to run the farmer’s market analogy here, though.   There’s a nice argument that locally grown produce is better/safer than the industrially produced variety, though the latter is more strenuously regulated.   More to come.

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5 responses to “DIY Insemination, The Law And Other Things That Matter

  1. However you are doing exactly what most do – looking at this from your own perspective. If looking at this from the child’s perspective its all irrelevant. No child should be born having limited, if any, information about their origins or be faced with only being able to contact him at 18. As he didnt choose the parents raising the child or know anything about them why would he necessarily then want to be contacted? Its why the child should be put first. When men wanting to help are connected with those wanting to build their families there can be FAR more positives in the long term. People are choosing to enter into an arrangement for the long haul, But the laws dont support that, the fertility industry doesnt support that. People making their own decisions and putting relationships first? Never. Luckily many of us do that. The sperm and how it ends up making someone pregnant is a tiny part of the bigger picture. Of course there are people who dont honour these relationships and use these sites- they want sex or money etc- but I still strive to find solutions that mean children can have what they deserve. To know of their origins and to know that he chose the parents that would be raising him, because they are on the same page regarding religion, lifestyle etc. In life most choose a partner based on these qualities/ factors- and these should play a big part in who we choose to have children with. Regardless of whether he is then actively involved in the parenting. He should however be known, and available for a relationship that can develop throughout the child’s life. You are focusing on things not from a child’s perspective. And as they have no say I am speaking out for them.
    You included ‘and other things that matter’ in the title and didnt even mention the most important thing that matters!
    Emma aka The Child Listener

  2. On the subject of legal protection by using a physician – there is an element that you may not have considered. Even though going through a physician does not require one to use a sperm bank, most physicians will not inseminate someone with fresh sperm that is not from their spouse for fear of legal liability. The sperm banks offer the doctor liability protection in that THEY are responsible for making sure the sperm is safe, so the doctor will not take that risk on themselves. So what may seem like an easy answer to the legal issue ends up being a dead end. It would be rather easily fixed by an established method of acknowledging a sperm donor/recipient relationship between biological parents without the involvement of a sperm bank (think Power of Attorney as a similar legal status), shifting all legal responsibility to the signing parties.

    There are actually MANY advantages to fresh sperm over frozen sperm, the most important being that it lives much longer in the female body. The insemination window is wider and a little more forgiving of inseminating too early, making it a little easier to get the timing right. This is why sperm banks only accept donors with very high sperm counts, because the freezing process kills a lot of them. With fresh sperm, a man with normal fertility is just as effective as the “super sperm” from the sperm banks. And if you manage to get some super-sperm fresh, all the better!

    • Beth a sperm donor is just a guy with offspring really. No different than any other guy with offspring. His offspring are just as much related to his relatives as any other offspring he might have supported to adulthood. Why should some of his offspring deserve and be legally entitled to his support while others of his offspring are not? Is that fair to the ones who are not entitled to receive financial support while they are minors? If he passes away prior to their 18th birthday why should some of his offspring be entitled to his social security or military death benefits while others are not entitled to it? Why should some of his offspring be entitled to inherit from him while others are not? Forget the intention of the woman who wanted to get pregnant, it is not her that is entitled to financial support or death benefits from a man she is not married to its the child that is entitled to those things from their parents. What happens when the mother refuses to name the father is that she is robbing their child of something he or she is entitled to. That is not fair. Its also not fair that the child will not be legally recognized as a member of that family – as a relative which helps stop people from dating or getting married.

      I reunite separated families. Most are not adopted people but people whose parents were not married to each other, like people that call themselves donor conceived. I have been lucky with only successful reunions and I think it is really unfair that once reunited sisters end up remaining legal strangers or siblings aunts uncles etc. You know you can claim a sibling as a dependent if you have to take care of them? They can’t do that. The unfairness of the legal arrangements your talking about setting up as well as the ones already in existence are so unfair because you create a class of parent that does not have to acknowledge their own offspring and the law does not have to acknowledge the relationship either.

      Your quite logical in some ways I like your dating service analogy very much because that is what it is so I hardly think it should be illegal. A woman is no safer going out and having sex with a guy she’s dating and we won’t be regulating that. They are making it like he is selling his sperm as a product and that is not at all what this is about its about the child and his promise to abandon parental responsibilities.

    • I know you are correct about the reluctance of most doctors to use fresh sperm these days, as you are about the advantages of fresh vs. frozen sperm. I don’t mean to push those points aside.

      I think giving controlling legal importance to the particpation of a doctor is evidence of a time we medicalized things that didn’t have to be so very high tech. Why does it make sense that the presence of a doctor makes a difference in the legal status of the sperm provider? Who or what is being protected? The doctor may have no idea about the law and is unlikely to provide legal counselling to those involved.

      What this did is mean that inseminations had to be conducted by doctors or you ended up with the provider as a parent. This created something sometimes called “the turkey baster problem.”

      The presence of the doctor is can be happenstance. If a partner is a doctor and insemination is done at home than there’s a doctor involved and now the provider isn’t a father. But if the partner were instead a nurse or a lawyer, the provider is a father. Unless, of course, you know enought to have a close friend who is a doctor come over and handle the sample, then you’ve complied with the law, too.

      But this should not distract from the point you make–which is that the doctor requirement generally tends to lead people to use frozen sperm from big sperm banks.

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