A Morally and Religiously Unethical Way of Reproduction Today, many reproductive technologies emerge in order to assist those people who desire to have children. One of these reproductive technologies is Artificial Insemination (AI). AI is a process in which the sperm is placed in a woman’s vagina or cervix through a device when she is ovulating. The practice of AI process dates back to 1850s when J. Marion Sims inseminated 55 infertile women and was able to impregnate one. However, his experiments were later involuntarily terminated.
In 1890, Dr. Dickinson pursued doing AI amidst the accusations of “adultery” by many. After a hundred of years, AID has been accepted by the people. Since no payments were required for sperm donors at that time, only a few criticized AI. Due to the non-progressive AID, the problem of infertility remained and people desired to have children. Finally, in the twentieth century, there was already an acceptance of AID by people (Pence, 2004, p. 167). There are two types of AI, Artificial Insemination by Donor (AID) and Artificial Insemination by Husband (AIH).
AID, a sub-type of this process makes use of another person’s or a stranger’s sperm cells in order to allow fertilization and enhance reproduction. American Fertility Society (AFS) also discusses that: AID is usually considered as an option by a couple when the husband or male partner has no viable sperm in his semen, when there is a rhesus (Rh) incompatibility between man and woman, or when the man does not want to transmit a genetic defect to offspring (as cited in Walters, 1997, p.
214). The number of sperm cells and the erectile ability of the husband are two of the factors affecting the couple’s fertility (Walters, 1997, p. 13). In addition, the only difference between the procedure of AIH and AID is the source of the sperm. AIH makes use of the husband’s sperm cells whereas AID makes use of the donor’s sperm .
The third part cites the reasons that AID lessens the value of procreation. The arguments are also incorporated with the results from surveys with students, faculty members and other personnel of Silliman University. These add support to the claim that AID is a morally and religiously unethical way of reproduction. In AID, the women who request this procedure can select their desired qualities for their child from the list provided by sperm banks which includes the sperm donors’ brainpower, physical and academic attributes (Timbreza, 2007, p. 227).
Before a sperm donor can donate his sperm cells, he must be screened for his qualifications. Specifically, the selection of donors involves a series of examinations such as complete physical and psychological examination, a sperm analysis, a genetic history, and appropriate blood tests including the test for acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) virus by physicians with application of precision and care. Aside from these requirements, they give preference to donors that have healthy offspring and qualities like that of the woman’s husband or of her choice (Ethical Issues, 2003, p. 58). In line with this, AI apparently promotes eugenics. Paul (1994), a historian of modern genetics, states that eugenics is a process of selecting desirable genes in order to attain the accepted standard of the society (p. 70). Eugenics has a lot of implications to our modern genetics, both negative and positive. According to Caleb W. Saleeby, eugenics involves two processes, namely the negative eugenics which gets rid of the unacceptable traits and positive eugenics which foster acceptable traits (as cited in Franks, 2005, p. 70).
Nelson (1973) further adds, “It [AID] could be a device of negative eugenics (to breed out certain undesirable genes . . . ) or, as some maintain, of positive eugenics (to breed in desirable genes . . . ) . . . .” (p. 68). One issue in eugenics that AI presents is that the screening for donors breeds out certain desirable genes. According to Nobel Laureate Edward L. Tantum, eugenic engineering is one of the methods used in controlling and modifying our genes. With artificial insemination and parental selection, our genes were recombined and certain desirable qualities were bred (as cited in Smith, 1970, p. 1). In fact, Dr. May Ling So (1994) points out the reality of the fostering of eugenics: Prized sperm from geniuses have been used to sire offspring of the desired qualities. It is no longer a scene from a science fiction where a woman can enter a Sperm Supermarket to select the specified qualities of the sperm from a man whose race, color, height, I. Q. , talents are known, except his identity. In fact, the child is tailor-made or made to order (p. 122). This statement implies that people patronize only the desirable traits.
In the survey conducted, most respondents who chose to undergo AI wanted their child to have physical traits of a certain person. This means that they are more concerned of the benefits of eugenics to their children. However, by screening of only desirable traits, the genes that are necessary for the survival of the human race are jeopardized. The elimination of genetic diseases for eugenics does not absolutely guarantee the betterment of human genetic stock for it carries dangers along with it. The varying genetic material, for instance, is an important factor for enhancing human immunity.
Although sickle-cell anemia adversely affects U. S. citizens, it is beneficial in some ways for it developed in order to protect the human body from the ill effects of malaria especially in some parts of Africa where this disease is rampant (Ethical Issues, 2003, p. 142). In addition to this, by choosing only the desirable traits, people develop the mentality of having “perfect babies” thus degrading the value of the so called “imperfect babies” as a human person. Munson (2004) says, “AI will promote eugenics and denigrate [degrade] the worth of babies that fall short of some ideal . . . . “ (p. 382).
Also in the survey, with regards to the question about favoring the idea of eugenics, most respondents selected the choice “no” as their answer which means that prior to their beliefs they disagree on the idea of eugenics. In addition, frequent semen donations for sperm banking from a single source for AID increases the possibility of unintentional incest, out of two donations from the fertile donor, about 400 children are produced in a week and 20,000 children yearly. Hence, the risk of incest is clearly an upsurge by AID (Fletcher, 1960, pp. 129-130). Accidental incest occurs because of the anonymity of donors in sperm donation.
In effect, most people born from AI do not even know their half siblings and may even develop sexual intimacy towards them. Due to the anonymity of the donor and the demand for certain uncommon traits in a small area, the probability of incest is high. According to T. Garrett, Baillie and R. Garrett (1970), a great danger of incest may possibly occur when the donor’s semen is frequently used in a small geographic area (p. 227). Incestuous marriages may possibly occur when two children of a donor marry. The number of incestuous marriages relies on the methods used in selecting a donor (Hajnal, 1960, p. 82). Moreover, eugenics in AI somehow acts as playing God in the society because it involves a lot of human interference in the processes of life. Dr. May Ling So (1994) adds in her article about assisted human reproduction that modern technology paves way to “playing God” in society by manipulating and experimenting with the process of procreation and by treating it as a commercial activity. For this reason, the value and sanctity of reproduction is diminished (p. 129). AI also lets the parents ordain the fate of their child even before he/she is conceived.
Parents are then substituting themselves for God in trying to choose the characteristics of their child. Hans Jonas and Joel Fienberg emphasize that the right of a child to a freedom of identity is intervened with parental expectations. The parents’ decisions in modifying their desired children and also in their choices for the child’s future neglect this freedom and put pressure on their child. Parents seek the aid of reproductive technologies to procure sperms from notably talented and athletic donors, hoping their child would be talented athletes too (as cited in McGee, 1999, p. 229).
AID grants us power to manipulate our body that may result to scientific inhumanities and increase the higher moral level of men (Fletcher, 1960, p. 116). While AI involves processes that involve eugenics, AID is a process that includes the sperm of another person. If the married couple accepts the sperm from another man (a man outside of the marriage bond with that woman), then she is inviting the intrusion of another man’s seed into herself. This concept violates a lot of religious beliefs due to the fact that there is an involvement of a third party – AI promotes adulterous relationships.
AID is against the husband and wife’s exclusive and non-transferable right to each other’s bodies. On the survey question about the respondents’ views about reproduction, majority of the respondents think that reproduction is a sacred act between married couple. In accordance to this, Pius XII, in 1949, rebuts the use of artificial insemination stating that because only the married couples have the authority of exercising their mutually exclusive rights over their bodies, reproduction using artificial insemination via another person should be rejected (as cited in McCormick, 1993, p. 109; Nelson, 1973, p. 0). Sharing the same opinion, Smith (1970) asserts that the husband and wife’s reproductive capabilities as solely for each other (pp. 60-61). Moreover, AID is adulterous not only because it defies the exclusive rights of marriage but also for other reasons conducive to adultery. McCormick (1993), in his stand against artificial insemination, reasons out that its inconvenience encourages adultery: “Furthermore, as I noted above, it might lead the wife of the sterile husband to conclude that the natural way (sexual intercourse) is less expensive and more convenient than donor in vitro fertilization or AID.
Thus, adultery would be fostered” (p. 111). God intended that pregnancy occur within the bond of marriage between a man and a woman — who are married to each other. Strongly disagreeing to AID for its marital violations, Helmut Thielicke says, “We are against [AID] . . . because the possible symptoms betray the violation of the far deeper mysterium of the marital fellowship. ” (as cited in Nelson, 1973, p. 75). Secondly, masturbation for the purpose of artificial insemination is immoral. Masturbation is an activity that includes lust for another person and such is adulterous in nature.
According to Pope Pius XII in 1949, AI is unacceptable since the means of obtaining semen is through masturbation (as cited in Nelson, 1973, p. 70). To affirm the act of masturbation during sperm collection, AFS states that, AI is a candid process wherein the sperm samples of the husband are acquired through masturbation. Before the samples are introduced into the vagina, cervical canal or uterus of the wife, the sperm samples are examined and treated by medical personnel (as cited in Walters, 1997, p. 13). Being against this, Munson (2004) even protests that many well-known technological processes are argumentative. The process of being unnatural is one of the reasons why AI is objectionable since it requires the masturbation which is morally wrong and affects the nature of sex and destroys the value of married state (p. 385). According to Robinson, other objection is the involvement of any form of masturbation that interferes with the natural process of procreation (as cited in Smith, 1970, p. 66).
Other beliefs which include the purpose of sex in procreation add to the argument that masturbation is immoral. According to Martin (2007), masturbation and homosexual acts are considered immoral because they do not procreate a new life; this is in line with Aquinas’ and the Catholic Church’s belief that sex should be for procreative purpose. Although the Catholic Church does not limit sex for procreation that it should also be an expression of love, both parties agree that masturbation and homosexual acts are immoral (p. 244).
Another question in the survey on whether or not the process of obtaining the semen from the donor through masturbation is morally correct; respondents think it is morally incorrect, for grounds that masturbation is unethical and a form of adultery. Furthermore, the involvement of a third party invades the covenant of the married couple. AID defies the marriage bond between the spouses for the reason that the wife’s reproductive parts are exclusively for the reproductive parts of the husband. Thus, the involvement of a third party in reproduction is immoral (Fletcher, 1960, pp. 18-119). AID is criticized by the Catholics as immoral and unlawful since it disregards the personal act of love-making between the spouses and invades the wife’s reproductive system other than her husband (Smith, 1970, p. 65). One member of the American Fertility Society argues that the use of any elements from third parties is ethically improper. First, it violates the non-transferable rights of partners to each other. Second, it brings forth a child with no biological bond with its parents. Third, it makes wives think that the natural way of insemination is preferable.
Fourth, it encourages eugenics. Lastly, it tends to corrupt the basic family values by emphasizing the role of childbearing and rearing and degrading sterility (McCormick, 1993, p. 98). In the survey conducted, as regards the question of allowing AI as means of reproduction, most of the respondents opted to choose not to allow it. This means that most people are against AI, since generally, most respondents feel that it doesn’t sound nice having a sperm from a stranger. This implies that, their refusal is due to their moral values. They think that, having a sperm from a stranger is unethical.
Sexual intercourse is intentionally the “natural” way of reproduction in order to achieve conception. However, new technologies unexpectedly make it possible for conception to occur without having sexual intercourse (Ridley, 1998, p. 105). Reproduction has become a widely commercialized commodity and medicine has found ways to making alternative ways for people to reproduce through AI. According to critics, AID has made the reproductive process a commercialized activity in which sperm banks and sperm donors make money out of it (Walters, 1997, pp. 14-215). Today, couples can even purchase donated sperm and eggs from strangers. In order for a couple to acquire someone else’s sperm, they contact a sperm bank or fertility clinic. As a result of making reproduction more of a mechanical process, AI lessens the value of procreation. One of the reasons of the lessening of the value of procreation is that AI rebukes the natural way of reproduction by providing new means of reproduction. Humans, nowadays, are intervening with the processes of life and thus, substituting themselves for God.
In order to understand what is unnatural, the things that are natural or proper should be considered. However, the ambiguity of this definition is due to the fact that it is natural for people to be innovative in life. In regards with this, the inappropriacy of these innovations such as reproductive technologies clarifies the meaning of unnatural. Thus, the interference of the processes of life, such as reproductive technologies, is unnatural (Ridley, 1998, pp. 105-106). Since AI is unnatural, procreation through it is redefined.
The natural concept of procreation is then challenged. Naturalists pay special attention to the “natural” purpose of the reproductive organs. The naturalistic and traditional view on procreation has made an impact on developing our moral concepts of procreation. For instance, we think that the shape and the function of the reproductive organs are especially designed for reproduction and that without procreation, sex is immoral. In addition, the menstrual cycle of a woman made us think that it is biologically intended for the expression of love rather than of procreation.
Lastly, the inseparability of procreation from sex is naturally necessary (Timbreza, 2007, pp. 193-194). By intervening with the natural life process and by not using the reproductive parts for procreation, AI artificializes reproduction. In support with this claim, as with regards with the way of reproduction, everyone in the survey chooses the natural way than the AI way. According to Abbott, in this modern era, one of the documents of The Second Vatican Council of the Church’s Pastoral
Constitution, states that marriage in no doubt is not introduced only for reproduction, thus marriage persist as a full manner and unity of life, and pressure its worth and indissolubility, even when children are lacking (Smith, 1970, p. 63). Personalities like Nelson even blame some processes in AI. Nelson (1973) states that the natural way of reproduction is rebuked because AI includes processes that are integrally immoral and unlawful in nature such as masturbation (p. 73). Another reason is that AI commercializes procreation by means of sperm banking.
Few years back in 1970, there had been a ban on federal funds for embryo experimentation in U. S. This ban led to the halt of most researches on assisted reproduction. If not for this ban, the industry would have accepted no federal funds. Since most researchers on assisted reproduction technologies [ART] lacked funds, they had to support their research from payments made by their clients (Pence, 2004, p. 166). From then on, clients have to pay for their services. This began the commercialization of reproductive technologies.
Currently, the prices of payments to sperm donors range from $50 to $75 per visit in about 400 sperm banks where couples can choose their desired traits (Pence, 2004, p. 167). The fast-growing businesses involving reproductive technologies have disappointed critics like LeRoy Walters in lieu of the commercialization of AI. LeRoy Walters (1997) objects the notion of the commercialization of the reproductive process saying that “the collection and distribution of sperm should be conducted in the same voluntary, non-profit way that whole blood and transplantable organs are. ” (p. 215).
According to some critics, the commercialization in assisted reproduction is both intrinsically and indirectly wrong. It is intrinsically wrong because, by virtue of Kantian premises, human beings should not be priced, and that relationships between couples should not be governed by money. Secondly, it is indirectly wrong because it results to negative consequences that can be affirmed or denied by social scientists. One of the consequences of the commercialization of assisted reproduction is the tendency for people to sell organs and sexual interests in prostitution (Pence, 2004, p. 71). These premises clearly argue against the commercialization of reproduction. In commercializing reproduction, the inherent value and sanctity of reproduction is lessened. This claim is further supported in the survey question concerning the commercialization of reproduction by means of sperm banking, majority of the respondents pick the answer “no”. This means they strongly disagree with the commercialization of reproduction by means of sperm banking. Lastly, most religious authorities think that AI dissociates sexual act from procreating act.
Munson (2004) states that, “AI will take love out of sexual intercourse and make it a purely mechanical process . . . .” (p. 382). Most people oppose to any method that contradicts the natural method of conception that involves people who are not married (Hyde & Forsyth, 1990, p. 45). In addition concerning the stand of the church in allowing AI as means of reproduction, most of the respondent answered “no” in the survey. Some of the reasons against AI are the following: AI is not an act of lovemaking, unnatural, and unethical.
This perspective entails that both sexual intercourse and procreation should go together thus, by taking either of these two, the value of procreation loses its sense. Pius XII, on behalf of the church, emphasizes the importance of the conjugal act (sexual intercourse) of the couple in the procreation of a child and rejects ways which would separate this act from their marital relations. The child should be the expression of that marital union, equally incorporating the natural way of procreation with the feelings of love and sanctity (McCormick, 1993, p. 103).
Furthermore, Lord Wheatley states that AI does not belong to the category of sexual intercourse, since it separates the link between two persons whether they have marital relations or not (as cited in Nelson, 1973, p. 63). Wheatley here discourages means of reproduction through AI on the basis of the link between two persons. Charles Curran assumes, “It is true that insemination must take place within the context of relationship of marital love; but the physical acts of natural intercourse does not seem to be of absolute and determining moral necessity. ” (as cited in Nelson, 1973, p. 73).
On the other hand, critics of AID accentuate the sanctity of sexual intercourse. The separation of love from procreation even has a greater impact on the family than on couples. With regards to the issue if AI violates any religious act, almost all of the respondents in the survey choose “yes” for the reason that AI violates the sacredness in procreation. In addition, a diocesan council in the Episcopal Church states that, AID defies God’s will of procreation as it damage the holiness of family and individual life, and degrade the position of womanhood as simply producers of offspring (as cited in Fletcher, 1960, . 110). There were three unethical aspects of artificial insemination that were explored in this paper: moral, religious, and the value of procreation. With regard to moral issues, eugenics is a major concern. This is considered to be morally unethical since the parents of the AI child claim a selection of qualities they would want to attribute to the child. Furthermore, this selection entails a risk in the human genetic stock because a lack of variety in the human DNA structure would cause a threat for the survival of the human race.
The second issue, that is religiously unethical, involves an “adulterous” kind of relationship since it implicates an invasion of a couple’s marital covenant. The last issue is the diminished value in procreating. It is also a major problem because people from the religious sectors claim that the “act” of lovemaking is replaced or substituted with scientific means which then artificializes reproduction. In addition, the data gathered from the administered survey questionnaires rendered results identifiable with that of the above statements.
The responses revealed various stands of the respondents which are against AI due to moral and religious beliefs or issues. Reproductive technologies have made an influence to our lives, thus affecting our values in terms of the family life. It risks our values by redefining sexual intercourse between couples, by influencing the ways parents plan for their children and by disregarding the sacredness of life (McCormick, 1993, p. 99). To sum it up, AI clearly threatens the important values and morals we have. Therefore artificial insemination in non-related people is morally and religiously unethical.