For many people, using donated sperm to conceive a child is the perfect solution to their situation. Some couples have fertility issues and the intended father is unable to produce healthy sperm. Other couples prefer not to use the intended father’s sperm for genetic issues. And lesbian couples need sperm donations to start and grow their families.
While using donated sperm is often the right course of action for intended parents, it can be a complex journey. There are many decisions to make along the way, including whether or not to work with a fertility bank, what type of donor to use, and which medical procedure is best.
The first step is to speak with an experienced reproductive rights attorney at LGBT Law of Winston-Salem. They will help you to understand your options and the potential legal ramifications that comes with each choice. If the donation procedure is done correctly, the intended parents are the full legal parents of the child and their names are put on the birth certificate.
Types of Sperm Donors
Not all sperm donation scenarios are alike. They often differ in the type of relationship formed between the donor and the intended parents. In many cases the situation is entirely anonymous. However, in others the parties all know each other and agree to the situation. The three common types of sperm donors are:
- Anonymous Donors: Many individuals choose to obtain sperm through a sperm bank or fertility clinic. The sperm donor’s identity is concealed and the individual is only given certain information like the donor’s looks and health history. The concealment goes both ways as well – donors do not know intended parents’ identities.
- Identity Donors: While this donor is originally anonymous through a sperm bank or clinic, he is open to having his identity released or possibly letting the child contact him in the future. The specifics of an identity donor can vary depending on the organization the intended parents work with, so you should always ask what they mean when a bank or clinic offers this option.
- Known Donors: Sometimes individuals choose to use the sperm of someone they know, like a friend. They can all work together with a sperm bank or fertility clinic, or take the more legally risky way of an at-home insemination. Some fertility clinics will not work with known donors, so if this is the route you really want, you may have to seek out an organization that is open to this option.
The Risks of Known Sperm Donors
Many people do not realize that the sperm donated to a bank or clinic is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and is tested for sexually transmitted diseases, chromosomal defects, and other genetic issues. There are safeguards in place to ensure that intended parents receive healthy sperm that is likely to lead to a healthy fetus and child. When intended parents use a known donor, these tests are not automatically performed by a reputable and experienced organization.
To achieve the same standard of quality and safety, the known donor would need to agree to STD and genetic testing. This brings up an issue of cost. The donor’s insurance may not cover genetic testing for the purposes of sperm donation, so who pays? The donor or the intended parents?
Donors for banks and clinics generally go through counseling to determine if they are mentally fit for this activity. Known donors should be evaluated by a mental health professional just like they would if they donated to an organization and not directly to the intended parents. This is an additional cost.
There are also many potential legal ramifications of using a known sperm donor. When anonymous donors give sperm to a bank or clinic, they sign a release giving up claim to any potential child. If parents use a known donor, they need to work with experienced reproductive rights attorneys to ensure the donor completely relinquishes parental rights. Without doing this, the donor could later change his mind and seek a relationship with the child.
Your Medical Procedure Options
Just as there are different relationships between donors and intended parents, there are different ways to induce pregnancy. Intended parents can opt for at-home insemination, artificial insemination, or in vitro fertilization.
- Artificial Insemination: For this procedure, the intended parent is often given medication to trigger ovulation. When she is ovulating, the donor’s sperm is inserted into the uterine cavity or the cervix, depending on the specific method used. This is a quick and painless procedures.
- IVF: For IVF, the sperm is joined with an egg outside of a body and then is implanted in the female carrier. Sometimes multiple embryos are created and implanted to increase the likelihood of pregnancy. The egg may be the carrier’s genetic material or her partners. It’s common for lesbian couples to use one partner’s egg while the other partner carries the child to term, allowing both of them to be part of the pregnancy. This procedure is more complicated than artificial insemination because a woman’s eggs must be collected and removed first.
- At-Home Insemination: Artificial insemination can be performed at home by the intended parents or by a physician.
The Risks of At-Home Insemination
There can be many legal ramifications if the intended parents perform artificial insemination themselves at home. Normally, a donor clearly relinquishes their rights to any potential child through paperwork at the bank or clinic or with a contract with the intended parents. But, at-home inseminations often occur without a formal contract or medical oversight, so it can be difficult to prove that it was a donor situation.
After an at-home insemination, the sperm donor can request parental rights and there may be little basis for the court to deny them. There is no paperwork to prove the donor relationship or a third-party to testify as to the nature of the conception.
It is much less risky to have an artificial insemination procedure performed by a physician in a clinic after a contract for sperm donation has been created by an experienced lawyer and signed by all parties involved.
Call LGBT Law of Winston-Salem
Before heading down the complicated road of sperm donation and artificial insemination or IVF, find an attorney who is experienced in assisted reproductive technology and who fully understands North Carolina law surrounding donor situations. A general practitioner is not who you need for this journey – you need a Winston-Salem LGBT family law attorney who has worked with intended parents in your situation before and who will proactively protect your rights.