Beware of Artificial Insemination

Author: Sue Widemark


When Carol B. and her husband found out that they were unable to conceive a child, it seemed a logical step to visit an artificial insemination clinic. At this clinic, Carol B. would have eggs produced by her body fertilized with the sperm of an anonymous donor.

About one out of every six couples is infertile. The clinics which do artificial insemination analyze why it is that the couple is having trouble conceiving. If the husband's sperm count is low, live sperm from a donor may be used. This is either artificially placed in the woman's cervix or injected directly into the uterus. It is an involved treatment as it must be timed precisely with the woman's ovulation cycle. The success rate for this type of artificial insemination is 10 to 17 percent and the process must often be repeated six times or more in order to be successful.

Carol B. was given the donor sperm and the process was repeated several times during that year at a cost of over $17,000.00 to Carol and her husband. Even at this, the artificial insemination was unsuccessful. Carol and her husband, depressed at the failure, financially deplete and desperate for a child, adopted a six year old.

Four years later, Carol received a call from the clinic where she had her artificial insemination treatments. The donor of sperm used in her treatments, she was told, had just come down with AIDS and the clinic strongly suggested that she be tested. A test revealed that Carol is indeed, HIV positive. Now, eleven years later, Carol lives with a cloud over her head knowing that any day, she might come down with AIDS.

Over 80,000 women receive this treatment yearly and yet, only five states have laws requiring that prospective donors be tested for STD and HIV. The Merck manual makes the comment that because of this danger of disease, live sperm SHOULD NOT be used and the book further suggests the use of frozen sperm. However, since viruses are sometimes not killed by freezing, would this insure protection against AIDS?

The Catholic Catechism has this to say about artificial insemination:

"Techniques that entail the dissociation of husband and wife, by the intrusion of a person other than the couple (donation of sperm or ovum...) are gravely immoral. These techniques infringe the child's right to be born of a father and mother known to him and bound to each other by marriage. They betray the spouses' 'right to become a father and a mother only through each other'...The act which brings the child into existance is no longer an act by which two persons give themselves to one another, but one that 'entrusts the life and identity of the embryo into the power of doctors and biologists and establishes the domination of technology over the origin and destiny of the human person. Such a relationship is contrary to the dignity and equality that must be common to parents and children" [articles 2376-2377]

The Catechism goes on to say that the Gospel does not consider physical infertility an absolute evil. The couple should draw closer together in love and perhaps share their love through adoption or through 'performing demanding services for others'.

Practically speaking if one follows the suggestion of the church, one would likely be protected from the fate of Carol and others like her, who after enduring much pain and spending large sums of money with no successful return, find out that they are dying of AIDS. Food for thought...



THE MERCK MANUAL (16TH edition, 1992, Merck & Co, New Jersey)

THE CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (Librera Editrice Vaticana, Liguori, MO, 1994)


Carol B. (name changed) told her story in a recent interview on a TV talk show.