Artificial Insemination

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Islamic Medicine
Staff member
By Prof. Hassan Hathout

A. Artificial Insemination using Husband's Semen (AIH).

If the husband does not have living spermatozoa in his semen this approach is obviously hopeless. But when the husband has normal spermatozoa but for some reason is not able to deposit them inside the genital tract of the wife, artif'icial insemination might solve the problem. It may also be that the seminal ejaculate lacks the proper concentration of live sperm, so that it becomes necessary to repeatedly collect lhe first wave of every ejaculate which is the richest in sperms, and prepare a satisfactory concentrate to be used. This can be kept in cold storage, to be drawn from at the time of ovulation each cycle and deposited by the doctor inside "the genital tract until hopefully a pregnancy results. From the Islamic point of view, this procedure is acceptable as long as it remains between husband and wife, provided-however-that it is carried out during the span of their marriage. Its acceptability is based on the fact that the mating lakes place within an authentic marriage contract, the sperm would-hopefully-fuse with the ovum under same, and the pregnancy (and baby) is ensured the right of legitimacy with its subsequent legal rights: all in truth and with falsification. That the procedure is only permitted within the span of marriage, is due to the fact that the marriage, contract is broken by death or by divorce. As a matter of fact the woman under such circumstances has the right to become another man's wife. The famous French court case is an illlustrative example. The husband died but he had already deposited semen preserved in cold storage in a semen bank. The widowed wife, for sentimental reasons, requestedto be availed of artificial insemination by her deceased husband's semen. The semen bank refrained from answering her request, and she had to go to court. The court ruled in her favour and she was inseminated by her late husband's semen (insemination, however, failed to produce a pregnancy). Such a court ruling would be unacceptable by Islam.. for both insemination and potential pregnancy are not within the boundaries of a valid marriage contract. A conceived baby would thus have been denied its basic right of legitimacy.

B. Artificial Insemination by a Donor's Semen (AID)

In this situation the husband is in fact infertile and does not possess semen of his own that is ever capable of producing a pregnancy, as in men whose semen contains no spermatozoa and there is no known treatment that can correct their defect. Resort is then made to semen given by a fertile donor .

A 'semen bank' carries out the function of obtaining seminal ejaculates from healthy fertile donors, and preserving them at a very low temperature (cryopreservation). The donors are medically checked to exclude diseases communicable by semen (lately AIDS-aquired immuno deficiency syndrome-has been added to the check list). The donors and recipients remain unknown to each other and written consent is taken from the recipient and her husband. Although the procedure can put an end to the problem of the fertile wife of an infertile husband, it stands unacceptable to Islam. From the point of view of jurisprudence, Islamic law would not consider this practice as adultery since it lacks the legal specifications (the crime of adultery legally materialises if four unblemished witnesses testify to have witnessed the complete act of coitus entailing introduction of penis into vagina), but morally it is considered nearly as sinful, and is legally punishable but not with the punishment of adultery. The child is not the fruit of the marriage contract and therefore robbed of its right to legitimacy. The woman and her husband are agreable, it is true. ..but the right of the child to legitimacy is not theirs to pamper with. The procedure also entails the lie of registering the baby as the son or daughter of a man who is not the real father. It leads to confusion of lines of genealogy whose purity is so dear to Islam. It lies to the child about, and denies him or her, the knowledge of their real father. It absolves the real father of being responsible for his own "flesh and blood". It enhances the chances of inadvertent brother-sister marriages in a community. It violates the Islamic legal system of inheritance. And on top of that, it would play havoc with the science of population genetics trying to deduce modes of inheritance by analysing family pedigrees.

An interesting development of the AID technology is the current ethical debate concerning the right of the unmarried woman to procure a pregnancy by artificial insemination. The new 'morality' has played an effective role in social acceptability and accomodation of 'uniparent families' as they are called. At the beginning it was perhaps an act of compassion towards the poor little girl who finds herself stuck with a baby whose father is either unidentifiable or unwilling to bear responsibility for his tilth or his crop. It was perhaps a little beyond the limits of imagination that uniparentage, should be souht per se, for its own sake. One would wonder if it meant any substantia difference for the unmarried female seekingartificial insemination whether to get it by artificial or perhaps more easily by natural inseminatio .In any case the procedure is not Islamically acceptable for much of the reasons already given
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