When I was first asked to write this piece about donor sperm insemination and to discuss whether or not inseminations should be done at home or at a medical clinic, my initial reaction was “definitely at a medical clinic” for the best possible legal protection.
As a lawyer practicing in the area of Assisted Reproduction Technology (ART) law for many years, my legal advice to anyone who asks would be to go through a medical clinic, although there may be certain scenarios where at-home insemination is also an option.
Why Should I Use a Licensed Fertility Clinic for Artificial Sperm Insemination?
For one thing, in many jurisdictions, laws are in place to ensure that an Intended Parent(s) who uses donor gametes and also uses an IVF clinic to build their family are legally protected. These protections ensure that the donor will have no parental rights.
Further, these laws also provide protection for the donor, ensuring that they will have no legal obligations. For example, Connecticut law provides that a donor shall not have rights or obligations if the insemination is done “by persons certified to practice medicine in this state.” (C.G.S. 45a-772)
I believe that seeking out the best legal protections when having children through third-party assisted reproduction (i.e. using sperm or egg donors, and/or a gestational surrogate) is of paramount concern. Life is messy enough at times without risking more messiness by circumventing legal protections. The phrase “penny-wise, pound-foolish” comes to mind. Intended Parents (IPs) may save some money avoiding medical procedures, but doing so risks setting themselves up for mountains of legal bills and years of heartache because of disputes about legal parenting, rights to custody, and/or obligations to support a child or children.
How Does The At-Home Insemination Process Work?
However, there may be some situations where at-home insemination with donor sperm does not cause the legal risks discussed above. For example, if a single woman or a lesbian couple obtain sperm from a reputable and licensed sperm bank. In these cases, there is little to no legal risk because the sperm donor has signed consent and release forms through the cryobank. In these scenarios, sperm that has been analyzed and properly screened may be shipped to the woman’s home, and there, she may inseminate herself or with the help of a loving partner and attempt to become pregnant in that way.
What Are The Risks Of At-Home Insemination with a Known Donor?
In terms of at-home donor inseminations, one situation to avoid would be using a known donor who does not come through a licensed cryobank. Here, we are talking about the yesteryear days of the “turkey baster baby.” The donor would come over, deposit his sperm in a container and the woman would be in the next room, and she would then use the sperm to inseminate herself.
In this situation, there is absolutely no legal protection for either party. Even if the parties hire lawyers and enter into a sperm donation agreement, this will most likely not protect them from claims by each other. The pregnant woman may give birth and decide she wants child support from the donor. The donor may decide he wants to be a father and have joint custody. There is little or no protection from such claims in the at-home insemination described above.
What Are The Risks Of At-Home Insemination with Unregulated Sperm Donations?
I once had a lesbian client who slept with a man to become pregnant. She was in a relationship with a woman and once the baby was born, the lesbian partner wanted to adopt as a co-parent. This was nearly impossible because the man was the father with legal rights. To further complicate this case, the father was married.
I was hired to meet with the father and explain to him that it would be in everyone’s best interest if he signed a voluntary termination of his parental rights. At first, because his wife knew nothing about the existence of this child, he did not want to sign anything stating he was the father. Later, he agreed to sign, and eventually, the co-parent adoption went through.
I think the main takeaway here is that third-party assisted reproduction is complicated legally. No one should read something on the internet saying that at-home inseminations are wonderful and convenient and comfortable and just believe it.
In some very particular circumstances, at-home inseminations may be right for some IPs, but most of the time, the legal risk is too great and the advice of legal and medical professionals should be sought.
Attorney Victoria Ferrara is the founder and legal director of the surrogacy agency, Worldwide Surrogacy. Vicki leads the agency with a passion for law and the family formation process - one of her achievements is the landmark Connecticut Supreme Court case of Raftopol v. Ramey, 12 A.3d 783 299 Conn. 681 (2011), a surrogacy case. She brings over 25 years of experience practicing assisted reproductive technology law and surrogacy law to help people make their dreams of family come true—just as hers have. She and her spouse, Michelle Loris, have two sons, Sal and Nick.