artificial insemination, technique involving the artificial injection of sperm-containing semen from a male into a female to cause pregnancy. Artificial insemination is often used in animals to multiply the possible offspring of a prized animal and for the breeding of endangered species. Prepared semen can be preserved for long periods by refrigeration, and it is frequently shipped over great distances.
The method has also been used in humans, when traditional fertilization cannot be achieved (see infertility). It has become a significant issue in recent years, particularly in debates revolving around surrogate motherhood, in which a woman agrees to bear a child for another couple through the use of artificially inseminated sperm from the husband (see surrogate mother). Legal issues have arisen in cases where the surrogate mother decides, upon the birth of the baby, that she wants to keep the child for herself. Likewise, there have been debates over the rights of sperm donors. Other debates on the subject have centered around the ethics of artificial insemination among humans, with critics decrying the practice as a perversion of science or pointing to the possible abuse of the process for purposes of eugenics. See also parent and child.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.