Contemporary American Reform Responsa

197. Child Born Through Artificial Insemination

QUESTION: Should a parent whose child has been born through artificial insemination tell the child that the child has been conceived in this fashion? If the semen used in the process of artificial insemination is a mixture of that of the father and of a volunteer, is the husband to be considered the actual father of the child? Is it permissible to use a donor in the case of artificial insemination? (Rabbi S. Ezring, Elkins Park, PA)

ANSWER: Let me begin with your second question which deals with the status of the father. In many instances artificial insemination merely uses the semen of the husband. Then there is absolutely no question. If, as you indicated, a mixture has been used, there would also be no question about the father. In accordance with Jewish law, the husband is presumed to be the father unless there is proof that this is not so (Hul. 11b; Sotah 27a; Shulhan Arukh Even Haezer 4.13 ff and commentaries). The husband would be presumed to be the father even if there was some suspicion that the woman had intercourse with someone else, or that the child was the result of rape. In this case, as there was no other intercourse, and a mixture of semen was used, the husband is definitely considered as the father.

The only reason for not using a Jewish donor for artificial insemination lies in the possibility that the child may marry incestuously without realizing it (C. F. Epstein, Teshuvah Shelemah, Even Haezer #4). In our very large, widely dispersed American Jewish community, this likelihood is minimal and for that reason both Jewish and non-Jewish donors may be used.

There is no reason to tell the child that he is the result of artificial insemination. After all, such a child is in every way part of the family from gestation and is genetically part of the family. Such knowledge can not benefit the child or its relationship with the parents. Such a discussion would be as absurd as telling a child conceived naturally that he may have been the result of intercourse in anger, or under other unusual circumstances. Conception is a private matter between the parents and the child has no right to that information. The child, therefore, should not be told about his conception through artificial insemination.

March 1986

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