What Is the Bible’s View?
Is Artificial Insemination Acceptable to God?
THE first recorded case of human artificial insemination dates back to 1799. London physician John Hunter then used this means of making a woman pregnant with her own husband’s semen. But only in recent years has artificial insemination become relatively common, with thousands of babies born each year as a result of it. When married couples resort to artificial insemination, it is generally because of the husband’s sterility, and the donors of seed usually remain anonymous.
For centuries, people have viewed as an adulteress any woman who became the mother of a child not fathered by her husband, and the offspring has been considered illegitimate. Certain courts have taken a similar position regarding artificial insemination by anonymous donors. But viewpoints vary. Whereas some religious organizations object to such a method of impregnation, other groups favor it.
The Bible says “there exists a way that is upright before a man, but the ways of death are the end of it afterward.” (Prov. 14:12) In view of this, and because human reasoning often is faulty, one does well to ask: Is artificial insemination acceptable to God? What does his Word, the Bible, indicate?
For many years, artificial insemination has been employed in animal breeding. God gave man dominion over such creatures and allows him to use them for food, clothing, and so forth. (Gen. 1:28; 3:21; 9:2-4) The Mosaic Law forbade interbreeding animals of two sorts, but it did not otherwise limit what man might do to regulate animal reproduction. (Lev. 19:19) So, some Christians have felt that the Scriptures do not prohibit artificial insemination of animals.
But what about human artificial insemination by anonymous donors? That is quite another matter. For one thing, it can foster numerous problems. To illustrate: The resulting child may serve as a constant, nagging reminder of a husband’s inability to father children. There may be some desirable elements lacking in the relationship of the man and the child, or even in that of the husband and wife. Some men have become “insanely jealous” of the unknown donors, and certain curious women have stolen hospital records to learn the identity of their child’s father. Uncertainty about parentage may pose emotional problems for the child. Furthermore, mothers and adopting fathers may be conscience-stricken as they ‘live a lie’ by representing the offspring as entirely their own.—Ps. 40:4.
Though admittedly remote, another serious possibility exists. The anonymous donor might be closely related to the woman, and their offspring may suffer detrimental physical or mental effects because of the consanguineous relationship. Along similar lines, note what happened some years ago. A doctor received quite a shock when he learned that two particular young persons were planning to enter wedlock. Why? Because he was the only individual living who knew that they were half brother and half sister. This physician had impregnated both of their mothers with the seed of the same donor.—Compare Leviticus 18:9.
The people of ancient Israel did not have to face the question of human artificial insemination by an anonymous donor because it was not then being done. But the faithful among them would have shunned it completely, for God had decreed: “You must not give your emission as semen to the wife of your associate to become unclean by it.” The penalty for disobedience was death. (Lev. 18:20, 29) Artificial insemination of a married woman by a donor other than her husband makes her guilty of adultery, a sin against God. (Deut. 5:18) Christians know that adulterers will not inherit God’s kingdom and are warned that “God will judge fornicators and adulterers” adversely.—1 Cor. 6:9, 10; Heb. 13:4.
Inasmuch as artificial insemination by an anonymous donor is not acceptable to God, if a Christian married couple resorted to it, they would be in line for expulsion from the modern-day congregation of Jehovah’s people. (Compare Leviticus 20:10.) After all, the consenting husband in effect gave his wife to another man, and the wife gave herself to that person in order to become the mother of a child by a man with whom she had not been yoked together by God in matrimony. (Matt. 19:4-6) The absence of direct physical contact and the fact that the consenting husband adopts the child cannot set aside the adulterous conduct.—1 Cor. 5:1-13.
Some Christian marriage mates who are unable to produce children have been told that this problem might be overcome if the husband provided sperm that could be administered to his wife artificially. If both husband and wife fully agree to have this done, that would be a personal matter, as God’s Word says nothing about it and a resulting offspring would be their own; it would not be a child of adultery. Nevertheless, they would have to resolve any personal questions of propriety as to the manner of acquiring the semen. Similarly, they would bear the responsibility if any medical or psychological difficulties resulted from the procedure.
Whether married Christians will adopt a child or not is also something they must decide. True, they may be very disappointed that they cannot have children of their own. Nonetheless, even if they have no children, such individuals may be assured that their earnest prayers to Jehovah God for his holy spirit and aid in cultivating such qualities as peace and joy will not go unanswered.—Luke 11:13; Gal. 5:22, 23.
Many have found true happiness in God’s service though they did not have children. In ancient Israel, large families were common and barren women felt great disappointment. Nevertheless, Jephthah’s daughter fulfilled her father’s vow to God by remaining unmarried and childless all her life. Was she constantly depressed and miserable as a consequence of this? No, for Jehovah gave her joy in service at his sanctuary. (Judg. 11:30-40) Then, too, in these “last days,” many Christian marriage mates view childlessness as a circumstance allowing them greater freedom to pursue the interests of God’s kingdom.
Christian husbands who wish to father children but are unable to do so can draw comfort from Jehovah’s assurance at Isaiah 56:3-7. In such circumstances, both Christian mates can be certain that, if they remain faithful to God, the greatest joy in life can still be theirs—that of having the approval of God.