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Artificial Conception: Artificial Insemination and In Vitro Fertilization

Modern medicine and science have given hope to those who previously could not conceive children. New opportunities for conceiving children have emerged through artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, and embryo transplantation. These new techniques have also created legal questions and disputes regarding the child's status and the rights and designation of the parents.

The following is an overview of the science and legal implications of artificial conception.

What Is Artificial Insemination?

Artificial insemination is a technique that can help treat certain kinds of infertility in both men and women. In this procedure, sperm are inserted directly into a woman's cervix, fallopian tubes, or uterus. This makes the trip shorter for the sperm and bypasses any possible obstructions. Ideally, it makes pregnancy possible where it wasn't before.

Factors that Lessen Your Chance of Successful Artificial Insemination

  • Older age of the woman
  • Poor egg or sperm quality
  • Severe endometriosis
  • Severe damage to fallopian tubes (usually from chronic infection)
  • Blockage of fallopian tubes.

What Is the Law Surrounding Artificial Insemination?

Artificial insemination raises a number of legal concerns. Most states' laws provide that a child born as a result of artificial insemination using the husband's sperm is presumed to be the husband's legal child.

Most states have "presumption" laws, which presume that a child born to a married woman is the child of her husband, and the designation of the husband as the father in a case involving artificial insemination derives from those laws.

When a child is born after artificial conception using the sperm of a third-party donor the law is less clear. Some states stipulate that the child is presumed to be the legal child of the mother and her husband, whereas others leave open the possibility that the child could be declared illegitimate.

What Is In Vitro Fertilization?

The process of in vitro fertilization (IVF) and egg transplantation involves the fertilization of the egg outside the womb. This procedure has caused several questions as to the rights of the various parties and remedies available to them if wrongful acts occur related to the procedure.

What Is the Law Surrounding In Vitro Fertilization?

Many IVF legal issues arise when the egg donor is not also the woman who will be the biological mother. In many IVF cases couples use their own genetic material and thus avoid these legal issues. Generally speaking, when the egg is donated by another woman, the birth mother will be treated as the legitimate mother of the child in the eyes of the law. There are special concerns for same-sex couples when it comes to establishing parental rights for children born as a result of IVF.

There are numerous issues that may arise with respect to the procedure of in vitro fertilization if the egg is from a donor who will not be the child's parent, including:

  • Safekeeping of the egg
  • Liability for the egg
  • Custody issues over the egg
  • Inheritance rights of the egg
  • Parentage issues when the fertilized egg is replanted in the donor
  • Parentage issues when the sperm used is donor sperm
  • Parentage issues when the egg used for fertilization is from a donor
  • Parentage issues when the fertilized egg is placed in another woman other than the donor

It is important to recognize that laws across the United States relating to IVF are fairly inconsistent. Before considering IVF, you may wish to consult an attorney to find out what relevant state statutes or regulations are applicable in your jurisdiction.

Talk to an Attorney About Artificial Conception and the Law

The laws surrounding reproductive rights are constantly changing, while artificial insemination and IVF laws vary widely by state. Whether you need additional information about your state's laws or have a specific concern about artificial conception, an experienced family lawyer can help.

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Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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