Artificial Conception

Modern medical science has made it possible for prospective parents unable to conceive a child naturally to have children by artificial means. But the practice of artificial conception also raises a number of legal and ethical questions. Examples of such concerns are the storage and destruction of unused embryos.

This sub-section of FindLaw's Family Law Center has basic information about artificial conception. It includes information about artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization. It includes a guide to which questions to ask a fertility service when considering the procedure. It also includes a sample intake form to help you prepare for a meeting with an attorney.

Both the intended parents and the gestational carrier should know their rights. Continue reading to learn more.

What Is Artificial Insemination?

Artificial insemination is a medical procedure used to treat infertility. It involves the direct insertion of semen into a woman's womb. It is a process originally used on livestock that has been adapted for human use.

The sperm can originate from the woman's male partner or a donor if the male is infertile or there is no male partner (i.e., single woman or woman in a same-sex relationship). Of course, the donor cannot be a family member. Most states have laws in place against this.

Artificial insemination is beneficial to couples or individuals in many circumstances. For example, a couple may be producing healthy sperm and eggs but are unable to conceive through intercourse due to a medical condition.

This type of insemination generally involves donor sperm or an egg donor. It can also involve an embryo transfer once the fetus has reached a certain stage of development with the gestational surrogate.

An embryo transfer involves the implantation of the embryo from the gestational carrier (or from the surrogate's uterus) into the person wanting to carry the fetus to term. These types of clinics can assist in the surrogacy process. In artificial fertilization, a fertilized egg is created by exposing an egg to sperm from either a donor or another parental participant in this process.

Artificial insemination is different from in vitro fertilization. The process of in vitro fertilization (IVF) and egg transplantation involves fertilization of the egg outside the womb. This relatively new 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 Infertility?

Infertility is a disease or condition of the reproductive system often diagnosed after:

  • A couple has had one year of unprotected, well-timed intercourse according to their ovulation schedule
  • The woman has suffered from multiple miscarriages and the woman is under 35 years of age

If the woman is over 35 years old, it is diagnosed after six months of unprotected, well-timed intercourse. Blood tests and other tests can be used to diagnose the condition.

Infertility can be caused by a variety of disorders that affect the ovaries. Depending on your medical history, there could be any number of reasons why you might be experiencing infertility. But there are always solutions if you can't have a child on your own due to infertility.

At fertility clinics, you can undergo fertility treatments. Assisted reproductive technology has reached a tremendously advanced stage. You can use such technologies for attempts at restoring or augmenting fertility.

There is a high success rate for having children by artificial means. It's important to remember that abnormalities in reproductive health, like infertility, are often treatable. If it's not possible to restore fertility, you can still have a child by artificial conception.


There are two main types of surrogacy, also known as “third-party reproduction." Traditional surrogacy usually involves the intrauterine insemination (IUI) of the surrogate mother using the intended father's sperm. The surrogate mother, therefore, is the biological mother of the child. However, this arrangement can lead to complex issues regarding parental rights.

At one time, this was the only type of surrogate parenthood arrangement available. But advancements in obstetrics have made gestational surrogacy the more common option.

In gestational surrogacy, the surrogate mother is implanted with an embryo created from sperm and an egg. This procedure is relatively complex, time-consuming, and expensive. The gestational carrier can be a member of your family.

The advantage of gestational surrogacy is the opportunity to have a child genetically related to both parents. But the process can be complicated in legal ways. Several countries and a few states discourage surrogacy arrangements where the surrogate is paid (commercial surrogacy). These jurisdictions might allow for altruistic surrogacy, however. Intended mothers, intended fathers, and intended parents should contact an attorney for help with the legal issues that are involved in the surrogacy process.

Hiring a Family Law Attorney

When embarking upon the path to parenthood that involves issues of infertility, many legal concerns may arise. The support and advice of an experienced family law attorney is, therefore, invaluable.

Surrogacy laws can vary quite a bit from one state to the next. So, it's important to contact an attorney in addition to your health care providers. They can help with all legal aspects of the surrogacy process. A skilled lawyer specializing in family matters can help ensure that your and your family's legal rights are protected.

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Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • State laws vary in their treatment of surrogacies
  • Surrogacy law is constantly changing and can be complex
  • An attorney can draft an enforceable surrogacy contract and negotiate contract terms

Get tailored advice and ask a lawyer questions about your state laws. Many attorneys offer free consultations.

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