Sperm donor clinics offer lesbian couples and single women the opportunity to become pregnant.
Women who want to have children may go through a fertility process called ‘insemination’, where sperm is inserted into a woman’s uterus in attempts to create a pregnancy. Artificial insemination is a popular way for lesbians to get pregnant and normally costs between £500 and £1,000. A woman can use sperm from a known donor or from a sperm bank.
Insemination has proven popular since the 1970s and online websites are designed to provide women with information on how to have a baby. Whether you are single or in a relationship, you can parent a child without discrimination.
The first step of the insemination process is being given the opportunity to select from a number of donors in your area, allowing you to choose your preferences eg. ethnic origin, height, hair and eye colour etc. This is followed by a number of urine, blood and sperm tests, and then finalised by organising the insemination at a licensed fertility clinic.
Pros of Sperm Banks:
- They require donors to give up any parental rights. There is no danger of the donor seeking custody or visitation of your child.
- The child, upon turning 18, will have the legal right to apply to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority for the identity of the father.
- They test semen for diseases and collect health and genetic information from donors.
Cons of Sperm Banks:
- They can be expensive and most insurance plans do not cover the cost.
- Although you can choose certain characteristics of the donor, you will never meet him, so his personality will remain unknown.
- They freeze the semen. This makes it less vigorous, so it may take longer to get pregnant.
Some women choose to get pregnant using a known donor. This can be a close friend or sometimes a relative. Regardless of how well you think you know the donor, it is advisable to set out a parenting agreement to clarify things like money, living arrangements, schooling, holidays etc. Though the agreement won’t be legally binding, and a court will always rule in favour of the child’s best interests, it can be useful in the event of a dispute.
Pros of Known Donors:
- You know who he is: his family history, physical and mental health, characteristics and personality.
- He might be open to being involved in the child’s life.
- You don’t have to pay for the sperm, although you may have to pay a doctor for the insemination.
- However, depending on the method of insemination, using a known donor carries risks as well.
If the insemination is carried out at a licensed fertility clinic, you can minimise the donor’s legal claim to parenting rights. Firstly, he would have to enter into an agreement explicitly stating that the treatment is not a joint undertaking. You would then need to receive the treatment under legal guidance, so that you do not undermine this agreement. Finally, he mustn’t be named on the birth certificate.
If you choose to inseminate at home, there are further risks.
Cons of Home Insemination:
- He is the legal father (even, in fact, if the donor was ‘anonymous’) and may sue for visitation or custody of the child.
- There is a risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
- The donor may choose to stay involved in the child’s life, causing dispute (If your partner adopts the child, the father ceases to have legal responsibility).
- Once the insemination process is complete, it’s only a matter of time before you find out whether you have become successfully pregnant.