The techniques of artificial insemination have been used in domestic animal breeding as early as the fourteenth century among Arabs to inseminate horses. In the early 1890s researchers in Moscow developed A1 for sheep, cattle and horses, and the technique is now a major part of the sheep and cattle industry worldwide. At the end of the 18th century, an English clinician, one John Hunter, claimed to have successfully applied the technique to humans. Successful experiments in France were followed by the report of an American doctor in 1866 that he had performed fifty-five inseminations on six women and had obtained the first A1 baby in this country.
Artificial human insemination is the introduction of semen in the woman’s vagina, cervical canal or uterus mechanically. It’s purpose is to produce pregnancy when the wish to have a child apparently cannot be satisfied through normal sexual intercourse. This breakthrough in technology is probably well known to most people. The extended press coverage of Louise Brown, the first child born as a result of artificial reproduction on 25 July 1978 created great interest in the field of human reproduction. Artificial reproduction is a term used to illustrate the various means of having children. These include techniques ranging from the relatively simple artificial insemination using semen of the husband (AIH), to artificial insemination using semen of an anonymous donor (AID) and sometimes the husband’s semen is mixed with that of the donor (AIM), to the high tech of IVF which involves the fertilization of a sex cell followed by the transfer or replacement of the resulting embryo into the woman, sometimes of a surrogate mother.
Types of artificial insemination
Artificial insemination using the husband’s semen: This is not frequently resorted to because the husband’s semen is rarely of any value. However, it is appropriate in the following situations, viz:
– Where there are factors (such as physical difficulties) on the part of either the husband or a wife or both preventing successful intercourse, but where the fertility of both parties is otherwise adequate. Male physical difficulties include premature ejaculation, physical impotence and obesity. Female physical difficulties may include obesity, vaginal scarring or tumours, abnormal uterine position, vaginismus and cervical hostility.
– Where the husband is subfertile because of defective spermatozoa, the chances of conception may be improved if the fertile part of the semen can be separated from the less fertile part. Several specimens of a husband’s semen can be collected to form one single insemination. A1, therefore may be more effective than natural intercourse.
The advantages of AIH, it is argued, is that a husband and wife can find a family through reproduction. Consequently, a husband will not feel left out of the reproductive process. Furthermore, there is no difficulty or ambiguity with the resulting child’s legal status, and the question of parenthood is not raised. AIH is, thus, the least controversial of available artificial techniques, morally, socially and legally.
Nevertheless, would these solutions to infertility be justified? Would it not be tantamount to interfering with the systematic planning of Allah? It is definitely true that such technology can be abused, but we cannot condemn it as being totally against the Sunan of Allah since infertility can be classified as a “disease” or “defect”. The saying of the Prophet “for every disease there is a cure” gives Muslims the impetus to try and do something about it. However, inspite of corrective surgery, various other techniques could create ethical problems, which would now be examined jurisdically.
[ Islamic Principles on Family Planning; pages 133 ? 134 ; Mufti Allie Haroun Sheik ]