He Said-She Said: Single Women and Artificial Insemination
- Cliff Young & Laura MacCorkle Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer & Senior Editor
- 2010 12 Dec
EDITOR'S NOTE: Each He Said-She Said column features a question from a Crosswalk.com reader with responses from a male and female point of view. If you've got a question about anything related to singleness or living the single life, please click here to submit to He Said-She Said (selected questions will be posted anonymously).
QUESTION: Can unmarried women be allowed to have babies through artificial insemination? What's the Bible saying about this?
HE SAID: As a single male, I have never personally considered this question, and my perspective doesn't come from one who has struggled with their natural maternal instincts but rather from a supportive "brother" who has walked the road with many friends who have.
Most of us have witnessed over the years, either through friendships or through the news (thank you Octo-mom), there is nothing stopping an unmarried (or married) woman from being artificially inseminated. With a desire, a little time and a couple of thousand dollars, a person can go to an insemination clinic and attempt to get pregnant.
While the Bible does not specifically address this issue, we can attempt to discern from what it does say in order to draw a possible conclusion.
God created man, saw it wasn't good for him to be alone and made him a suitable helper (Genesis 2:18). He did what was best for "us." Likewise, Adam and Eve became intimate, and through his assistance, Cain and Abel were born.
Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, "With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man" (Genesis 4:1).
After Noah's faithfulness of building an ark and gathering the animals together, God commanded him and his wife, and his sons and their wives to populate the earth.
Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth (Genesis 9:1).
God created conception to occur between a man and a woman within the covenant of marriage in order to populate the earth. The disparity arises when arguments against this creed arise, "that was the Old Testament," "but God gave me the desire to have a child," and "that was before medical advancements made it possible for insemination to happen," to name a few.
This is all true, however if we look at some of those from the Bible who took their "supposed" barren situations into their own hands, maybe we can learn from their outcomes.
One day the older daughter said to the younger, "Our father is old, and there is no man around here to lie with us, as is the custom all over the earth. Let's get our father to drink wine and then lie with him and preserve our family line through our father." So both of Lot's daughters became pregnant by their father. The older daughter had a son, and she named him Moab; he is the father of the Moabites of today. The younger daughter also had a son, and she named him Ben-Ammi; he is the father of the Ammonites of today (Genesis 19:31-32, Genesis 19:36-38).
From their children came the Moabites, who worshipped the god Chemosh, honored with cruel and wicked practices (like child sacrifices), and the Ammonites, who were steady antagonists of Israel. Was this how they "intended" to preserve their family line?
Now Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; so she said to Abram, "The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her" (Genesis 16:1-2).
As a result of her impatience and unbelief, Sarai acted outside of God's promise for her life. She thought "perhaps I" can do it on my own. Maybe I know better. Maybe I can make it happen. But what about the consequences?
Then Sarai said to Abram, "You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my servant in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me" (Genesis 16:5).
Sarai's conception didn't just bring strife between her and Abram, Hagar's son Ishmael is considered the father of the Arab people and "his hand will be against everyone and everyone's hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers" (Genesis 16:12). The Jewish and Arab people have been enemies ever since. Is this the "family" Sarai envisioned?
In support of artificial insemination, I have heard of a number of arguments.
- God wouldn't have given me the desire if he didn't want me to have children.
- I'm running out of time on my body clock.
- I don't have a husband.
- The Bible doesn't specifically say you can't.
- God did it to Mary (although not exactly "artificial").
Even though an argument can be made for insemination, we often have the innate ability to "justify" those things we shouldn't necessarily be doing.
Oftentimes, we (including myself) think we know what's best for us only to discover later that it probably wouldn't have been, or wasn't had we waited. This doesn't mean God can't use every situation in the end for his glory; however, it may not always be the best for us.
Artificial insemination definitely has its place in society and within a godly context, for instance when a couple isn't able to conceive on their own and the "seed" of the husband is implanted in his wife. However, I have not found any biblical substantiation where the seed of a stranger is "permitted" to be implanted into a woman (married or not) for the purpose of having a child.
God instructs us to love the "children of God" (1 John 5:1-2) and it can be achieved in a number of ways besides giving birth—through foster parenting, adopting or mentoring.
I fully realize it is not the same as having a child born of your own flesh and I won't ever comprehend the maternal instincts of a female. However, what I do know is God brought his son into the world through an immaculate conception in order to save the world from our sins, not to give us a justification to do what we want.
SHE SAID: A fellow single female friend and I recently had a discussion about this very same issue. Is artificial insemination taking it too far and "playing God"? Should a single woman take matters into her own hands to purposefully become a single mother? Should a child grow up without a father? Weren't families designed to have dads and moms so that children will receive training and nurturing from both a male and a female perspective?
Like many other gray areas in Christian living, this is an issue that does not have it's own passage of Scripture to clearly guide us and instruct us. There is no "Steps to Take If You're Single, Female and Want Kids Now!" set of verses in any book of the Bible that I can find.
For me, artificial insemination is a step too far. I know that there can be arguments made for or against other types of invasive surgeries or involved medical procedures as well (Should we be putting man-made or foreign objects into our bodies in order to prolong life or improve our health—pacemakers for hearts, plastic joints for knee replacements, metal implants, plates or screws, etc.? And why is or isn't that okay or acceptable?).
But in general, where does technology cross the line? Where do we take over and stop trusting God for his plans and his timing and his purposes for our lives? I wish I knew for sure, but I don't. All I can tell you is what my own personal convictions are on this matter, based on what I have gleaned from what I see in Scripture as to how God has designed a family.
I am a great proponent of the influence of a father in a child's life. My earthly father passed away almost twenty years ago now, and I can't imagine having grown up without his love, his guidance and his support of me in my life. My father helped to mold and shape me in ways that were different than my mother. In fact, I am convinced that because of my father's unconditional love (my dad was my biggest fan), that that is why I was not boy-crazy in junior high or high school (because I already had the love of my father!) and why I didn't struggle as much as some of my other girlfriends with insecurity when it came to boys and seeking their attention. As a result, how I view men today and how I relate to them is a direct result of my upbringing under the care of my earthly father. He greatly impacted my life, and I believe God planned that, purposed that and allowed me to have that important, formative time with my dad while we were both here on earth.
These days, when I see a woman going the artificial insemination route, the message that is communicated to me is that a man is not necessary in the makeup of the family that she is trying to create. Yes, his seed is necessary in order for an egg to be fertilized and a new life to be created. But the underlying message is that nothing else about a man is needed in order to parent this child or to establish a family unit with this child. That may or may not be a single woman's intent or her plan (consciously). But surely, subconsciously, is she not saying that a man is not fully needed in her family's equation, both now and in the future? And that she will go ahead and make her family with the resources that she has control of and that are at her disposal?
Sorry, but that's how I interpret it. And I'm sure I'll get some hate feedback on this one, but so be it.
I realize that life circumstances might dictate that someone unexpectedly—or against his or her wishes—becomes a single parent and many times this is out of someone's control. But for myself, I have no desire to purposefully set out on my own to be a single mother. I've seen how hard it is to parent when there is both a dad and a mom involved, and I believe it's hard enough when that is the case. I've observed my sister and her husband parenting their now older teens, and one time I asked my older sister which was harder—marriage or parenting. And she said, "Parenting, hands down!" Any time I babysat my niece and nephew on my own, I grew to understand that a little bit better. How in the world could any person do this on his or her own and do it well?
What is clear to me when I read the Bible is that not only did God create a man and a woman when he created the earth (and told them to "be fruitful and increase in number"), but that there is instruction for and commentary given about both dads and moms as it relates to the concept of family.
"Honor your father and mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you" (Exodus 20:12).
‘Each of you must respect his mother and father, and you must observe my Sabbaths. I am the LORD your God' (Leviticus 19:2).
Praise the Lord. Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who finds great delight in his commands. His children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed (Psalms 112:1-2).
Listen, my son, to your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching (Proverbs 1:8).
"The eye that mocks a father, that scorns obedience to a mother, will be pecked out by the ravens of the valley, will be eaten by the vultures" (Proverbs 30:17).
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother"—which is the first commandment with a promise—that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth. Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:1-4).
Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting to the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord (Colossians 3:18-21).
Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God (Titus 2:3-5).
Yes, each of these verses is set in a different context and should be studied within its own set of parameters. But each verse also shows me that a husband and wife are important and that a father's role is very necessary and very purposeful in a family equation and in children's spiritual formation (which affects generations to come!).
So, can unmarried women be allowed to have babies through artificial insemination? Yes, they can be "allowed." But I invite you to search the Bible for yourself to see what you will find as it relates to how God designed a "family," how you will be guided by the Holy Spirit and what you are supposed to glean for your own answer to this question.
HE is … Cliff Young, a Crosswalk.com contributing writer and a veteran single of many decades. He has traveled the world in search of fresh experiences, serving opportunities, and the perfect woman (for him) and has found that his investments in God, career and youth ministry have paid off in priceless dividends.
SHE is … Laura MacCorkle, Senior Editor at Crosswalk.com. She loves God, her family and her friends. Singleness has taught her patience, deepened her walk with the Lord and afforded her countless (who's counting anyway?) opportunities to whip up an amazing three-course meal for one.
DISCLAIMER: We are not trained psychologists or licensed professionals. We're just average folk who understand what it's like to live the solo life in the 21st century. We believe that the Bible is our go-to guide for answers to all of life's questions, and it's where we'll go for guidance when responding to your questions. Also, it's important to note that we write our answers separately (we think they sound eerily similar sometimes, too!).
GOT A QUESTION? If you've got a question about anything related to singleness or living the single life, please submit here to He Said-She Said (selected questions will be posted anonymously). While we are unable to answer every inquiry, we do hope that He Said-She Said will be an encouragement to you.
**This column first published on December 28, 2010.