Contemporary American Reform Responsa
197. Child Born Through Artificial
QUESTION: Should a parent whose child has been born
through artificial insemination tell the child that the child has been conceived in this fashion? If
the semen used in the process of artificial insemination is a mixture of that of the father and of a
volunteer, is the husband to be considered the actual father of the child? Is it permissible to use
a donor in the case of artificial insemination? (Rabbi S. Ezring, Elkins Park,
ANSWER: Let me begin with your second question which deals with the status
of the father. In many instances artificial insemination merely uses the semen of the husband.
Then there is absolutely no question. If, as you indicated, a mixture has been used, there would
also be no question about the father. In accordance with Jewish law, the husband is presumed to
be the father unless there is proof that this is not so (Hul. 11b; Sotah 27a; Shulhan Arukh
Even Haezer 4.13 ff and commentaries). The husband would be presumed to be the father even
if there was some suspicion that the woman had intercourse with someone else, or that the child
was the result of rape. In this case, as there was no other intercourse, and a mixture of semen
was used, the husband is definitely considered as the father.
The only reason for not
using a Jewish donor for artificial insemination lies in the possibility that the child may marry
incestuously without realizing it (C. F. Epstein, Teshuvah Shelemah, Even Haezer #4). In
our very large, widely dispersed American Jewish community, this likelihood is minimal and for
that reason both Jewish and non-Jewish donors may be used.
There is no reason to
tell the child that he is the result of artificial insemination. After all, such a child is in every way
part of the family from gestation and is genetically part of the family. Such knowledge can not
benefit the child or its relationship with the parents. Such a discussion would be as absurd as
telling a child conceived naturally that he may have been the result of intercourse in anger, or
under other unusual circumstances. Conception is a private matter between the parents and the
child has no right to that information. The child, therefore, should not be told about his
conception through artificial insemination.
If needed, please consult Abbreviations used in CCAR Responsa.