Donor Insemination: Eugenic and Feminist Implications

Abstract

One concern regarding developments in genetics is that, when techniques such as genetic engineering become safe and affordable, people will use them for positive eugenics: to “improve” their offspring by endowing them with exceptional qualities. Another is whether new reproductive technologies are being used to improve the condition of women or as the tools of a patriarchal system that appropriates female functions to itself and exploits women to further its own ends. Donor insemination is relevant to both of these issues. The degree to which people have used donor insemination in the past for positive eugenic purposes may give some insight into the likelihood of developing technologies being so used in the future. Donor insemination provides women with the opportunity to reproduce with only the most remote involvement of a man. To what degree do women take advantage of this to liberate themselves from male dominance? Through questionnaires and interviews, women who have used donor insemination disclosed their criteria for selecting sperm donors. The results are analyzed for the prevalence of positive eugenic criteria in the selection process and women’s attitudes toward minimizing the male role in reproduction.