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Looking Back in SGN History: Artificial insemination for Lesbians

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The front page of Volume 6, Issue 4  

MARCH 2, 1979

Dive into the archives of the SGN at https://issuu.com/sgn.org

Artificial insemination of unmarried women has become a popular topic lately. Articles in the Seattle Sun and the Seattle Times, as well as a series in the P-I, have explored the spread and problems of artificial insemination (AI). And at least one local women's bar has held public discussions on the subject.

But despite all this exposure, misconceptions about the controversial process still run rampant. Popular literature speaks about "factors that influence the sex of the infant." And one local woman was heard to announce her belief that it is safe to "stick the semen in the refrigerator until use." [...]

Several local physicians currently perform AI on an office basis. For at least one, on First Hill, AI is a regular part of his practice. But most doctors are reluctant to publicize the operation to the general public: some persons and groups take violent exception to it.

The semen used in these operations is usually obtained from doctors or medical students, though, for a reduced fee, a woman can bring her own donor.

The first doctor's appointment in the AI process includes a thorough gynecological exam and a review of the processes of impregnation and ovulation. The fee for this is fairly high. Subsequent appointments are monthly or twice monthly.

The First Hill physician mentioned above counseled and impregnated two openly gay women last year; neither reported any problem.

A woman who wants to become pregnant must learn to know when she is ovulating, [that] she is fertile. [...]

Semen for artificial insemination is collected by masturbation, which may take place in an adjoining room in the physician's office. The container, usually a glass jar, must be free of toxic chemicals, like cleaning agents. The donor must have been relatively chaste for one to seven days before insemination. Even wet dreams can lessen the number of living sperm cells he has to give. The amount of fluid does not diminish with frequent sexual activity, just the number of live sperm cells. [...]

One method of obtaining sperm used by an East [Coast] gay commune has been to have a sort of party. Men ejaculate into clean jars, the jars are poured together, and women who want children use this mixture. In this way the donor is anonymous, and has no legal responsibility. Seminal fluid will keep potent for three hours if left at room temperature.

Lesbians may wish to become parents for many reasons, and espouse a wide range of political motives for motherhood. But women who do not want to bear little males should take [heed]: there are no effective ways to affect the sex ratio. Forget those slickback books; they simply do not tell the truth. Those physicians who have declared that changing the acidity of the vagina (vinegar douche), warming the semen, or trying particular days of ovulation can affect the sex of an infant are just out to make money. According to contributors to the International Journal of Fertility and Fertility and Sterility, some of these methods may be harmful. After all, if these techniques worked, physicians would be using them en masse. [...]

Methods of artificial insemination vary slightly with each clinic. Two main methods are used: the cap method and simple insertion. Both of these systems can be used in a clinic, or, as many lesbians seem to prefer, at home. Two [practices] must be observed by either the professional or the dedicated amateur: don't heat the semen, and don't put it in the refrigerator. If there is to be any delay before using the sperm, it must be left at room temperature.

Testicles are not hanging outside the body for sheer decoration; Nature knows what she is doing. Warm testicles make for slow, unsuccessful sperm; warmed up seminal fluid may be defective. While the refrigerator is never the place for a bottle of sperm, a clinic can successfully freeze it. The process is involved, though, so don't try it yourself. [...]

Men donate sperm for as many reasons as women want children. Those gay men interested in carrying on their genes into the next generation will probably find that quite a few lesbians are willing to help them out — at least if the matter is kept anonymous. Lesbian women are now finding the courage to have the children they feel they can raise.

This article was edited for length. To view the article in full, visit https://issuu.com/sgn.org/docs/sgn_march_2_1979_7f3ec0b5664f0c