Single mother to be, the Bible and sperm
February 8, 2010 6:12 AM   Subscribe

I am making plans to become a mother soon. Sperm donation keeps popping into mind but I am a single Christian. Can someone point me in the direction of a good sources of information from a Christian/biblical perspective for or against this.

I am fine with the idea of becoming a single mother. I've always wanted to be a mom but it took me about a month or more to find information online that went along with this, that single women adopting is according to God's will with biblical references included and that it is okay to be single, a Christian and not looking in general.

I'm in a waiting period trying to build up funds, savings for adoption, work leave, etc but sperm donation keeps popping up due to how inexpensive it, its lack of medical intervention like IVF, the waiting time and that I would be able to use my own eggs. This is not required but it is a perk, so to speak, and due to current medical issues I would almost prefer the chance. I have my reasons against it as well but I don't want to flat out reject it without moral cause. I don't know if that makes sense.

I am wondering if this is ok and its just taking me time like it did to come across adoption as a godly thing or if this is not like I suspect and I just need more sources to keep me on path.

Biblical references, something more concrete would be more helpful then someone just saying don't do it or go for it. I'm not too sure where to look and I'm not sure if the fact that I am single makes sperm use different from a couple even though there are reproductive issues still involved. I've heard something of the sort and it just confused me more.

To add: I do know that adoption is very different from sperm donation so I am not comparing the two, just wondering if both are options for parenthood and if so then in what capacity.

Non-denominational Christianity is what I identify with if that helps any.
posted by anonymous to Religion & Philosophy (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The one of the first directions that was given was "be fruitful and multiply." The commandments against "outside of marriage" sex in the bible are based on the sinful nature of wo/man in perusing her lust. So lust is the real sin here. Your desire has nothing to do with lust.

Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD:
and the fruit of the womb is his reward.
As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man;
so are children of the youth.
Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them:
they shall not be ashamed

You are in the moral clear here. Your fellow church members may feel weird about it, but only you can decide if you want to deal with that.
posted by bigmusic at 6:20 AM on February 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

I don't have the specific quote but wouldn't it fall into "go forth and multiply"? I would think God/Jesus would be ok with you wanting to procreate. To me, all they would care about is if you're a loving and good mother. How the child came to be wouldn't matter. Your intention is out of love. Like bigmusic said, you're not having sex.

And remember, if we're going by the Bible, Mary was inseminated by an angel, not her husband.

Good luck.
posted by stormpooper at 6:24 AM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

In fact, the "be fruitful and multiply" bit is the first commandment given in the Bible by God to man - before the garden of eden mess.
posted by bigmusic at 6:28 AM on February 8, 2010

As a Christian, perhaps this is something you should discuss with your pastor? S/he will be able to not only discuss scripture, but to also interpret it in terms of your personal walk with the Lord Jesus Christ.
posted by orthogonality at 6:39 AM on February 8, 2010 [4 favorites]

While I don't have a great memory, and I apologize for not having any scripture to share, but when reading the New Testament, I don't recall anything that would construe a woman becoming a single mother to be looked down upon.
posted by Atreides at 6:39 AM on February 8, 2010

Good luck with whatever you choose, but for my two cents:

Happy, (relatively) well-adjusted, and totally successful Colombian adoptee here.

And I say: keep saving for adoption. There are lots of a good loan programs for just such an occasion. Moreover, the costs for many adoptions are roughly equivalent to those incurred by a hospital birth and its associated expenses ($12,000 - $24,000*). And amortized over the life of the child... ? :) . Moreover, there are quite a few Christian organizations who would provide financial/logistical support to parents of their same faith.

* As long as you're not considering Korea, that is. Those kids are - for some reason - top-shelf expensive babies.
posted by mr. remy at 6:44 AM on February 8, 2010

I wonder if you've spoken with a spiritual advisor about this, or what's come up for you in prayer? The Bible isn't the only authority, and unless you count Hagar, the Bible doesn't really come close to addressing a modern issue like sperm donation. So I'm not sure, beyond things people have already mentioned, you're going to find Bible verses per se to help you make this decision.

I'm a Quaker, and we have a process called a clearness committee, where a small group of Quakers sit with you, ask good questions, and help you examine a leading and find your own sense of what's right to do. Your denomination may not have something like that, but perhaps you have a pastor, or a committee on pastoral care, or some such thing you could approach for help?

On a more practical level: I have had children with donated sperm, and I have adopted. In the absence of any other fertility issues (I had none, just a partner who didn't produce sperm), IUI can be very quick and relatively inexpensive--in the realm of a few hundred dollars for sperm and the insemination. I found adoption not only significantly more expensive (mr. remy's math re: hospital birth only works if you don't have insurance to pay for your hospital stay, and underestimates the cost of adoption, especially international adoption, to boot) but much more difficult. And overall, much more morally vexed. At least with my two kids conceived with donor sperm, I don't have to live with knowing there's a broken-hearted birthmother out there somewhere.

I definitely experienced my decision to have each of my children as a leading. Best of luck to you.
posted by not that girl at 6:56 AM on February 8, 2010 [4 favorites]

A common method of sperm retrieval (masturbation with the assistance of pornography) involves a violation of the sixth commandment (Matthew 5:28; Colossians 3:5; Exodus 20:14).

God's prerogative to author and terminate life is not subordinate to our activities (Deuteronomy 32:39).

It is not wrong to desire the blessing of children as we also desire the blessing of a nice home, good job, a friendly and Christcentered church, good friends, etc (1 Samuel 1:120). While we pursue these other blessings we carefully watch our steps so that we do not violate the principles of God in the process. So also should we carefully watch our step when seeking the blessing of children. We should ask ourselves: Are my motives Godpleasing? Will the techniques pursued compromise God's value in human life? In the end will this effort be done to give God the full glory (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Those quotes and more analysis here. The analysis seems to say that as long as motives are pure, etc. sperm donation is okay. It doesn't really address single parenthood. I am not speaking my opinions on these issues either way, since that's not what you asked for and my opinions are strong and without reference to Xianity.
posted by bunnycup at 7:17 AM on February 8, 2010

follow-up from the OP
I was a part of a church for over ten years before moving to this new town. I'm deciding on a new church now but the fact that this decision is also hooked up with personal health problems, I think it would take me a long time to be able to put it all out there for this answer. I would like to contact a few members of my old church that helped me through hard times before but I'm not sure how that would work out either. I haven't discussed current health situations with them though they are like family and am not ready to just yet. Working on it though.

Lately the previous church has been rejecting most things to an extreme even more than before. By that I mean even a Christian artist played on a non Christian channel was looked down on when I was younger, there has been pyramid schemes, favoritism among members and it hasn't gotten any better. I'm not sure it would do anything more than confuse and convict me even more for even thinking this way.

bunnycup, thank you for the link and please don't think that your opinion wouldn't be valued even coming from a different direction. I've just come across so many forums and what people thought and its just thrown me in all directions without giving me information that I could really use. I just wanted to make sure to ask for something more that could be backed up biblically but feel free to share.

I do appreciate the answers. Thank you all.
posted by jessamyn at 7:42 AM on February 8, 2010

This is a tough one. You're not going to find any scripture that is obviously pro or con, but there is lots of discussion on the internet about this. The general consensus seems to be conception through sperm donation is iffy even for married couples and definitely problematic (but not necessarily wrong) for singles. Speaking to a spiritual advisor and prayer are going to be your best bets for finding the best answer for you.

The article that bunnycup referenced is a good one.
Some other resources that might give you a better idea of the issues involved are here, here, and here.
posted by Dojie at 7:43 AM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Looks like shaky ground to me for your descendants:
A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the LORD.
Deuteronomy 23:2
posted by fydfyd at 7:59 AM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't think Korea allows single parent adoption anyway.

Another thing to remember is that the US government has an adoption tax credit to assist with the associated fees.

Rachel and Leah used their maids Bilhah and Zilpah to have children for Jacob. That's more surrogacy than sperm donation, but you may find that useful to think on anyway.

Ultimately, if you can't reconcile your beliefs with the reality of sperm donation, adoption is an option for you. Giving a home and a family to a child is a blessing.
posted by elsietheeel at 8:00 AM on February 8, 2010

OP, since you asked for my opinion I am happy to give it. But I want to be clear that I am infertile and considering parenthood through IVF and surrogacy. Both are disallowed by a majority of Christian churches, and I look at reproduction ethically and spiritually rather than doctrinally. Bringing a child into the world and raising them with love, morals, kindness and the intent to do good is a wonderful thing. Science aids creation, but doesn't supplant the miracle of life. Efforting to bring a fiercely-loved child into the world, brings more love into the world. And the world could use more love, always.
posted by bunnycup at 8:10 AM on February 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


the word in the passage that you're quoting that's translated as "bastard" does not actually correspond to the general meaning of the word bastard - a child born to a woman who is not married to that child's natural father.

The actual word is "mamzer", and that refers to a child born out of an illegal union - generally either an adulterous (when the woman is married to someone else) or incestuous relationship.

At least within Jewish law and interpretation of that concept, it does NOT apply to children conceived with sperm donation and without sex.

I imagine (though I'm not super educated in Christianity) that there are a range of responses on this question. It seems like the most effective and meaningful route for you would be to identify a couple of movements/Churches whose approach to Christianity and morality you generally identify with and respect, and pursue more concrete answers via their representatives or literature.
posted by Salamandrous at 8:23 AM on February 8, 2010 [3 favorites]

I was a part of a church for over ten years before moving to this new town. I'm deciding on a new church now but the fact that this decision is also hooked up with personal health problems, I think it would take me a long time to be able to put it all out there for this answer. I would like to contact a few members of my old church that helped me through hard times before but I'm not sure how that would work out either.

So you're currently in a period of transition, unchurched, out of fellowship with your former congregation, and dealing with health problems that impinge upon or are "hooked up" with your reproductive / child-raising decisions. Can you affirmatively answer that you're ready to bring children into this world, and to raise them for two or more decades, in a stable home that provides them with safe, secure, and upright Christian upbringing?

In other words, if children are involved, whether by birth or adoption, your primary responsibility must be to their needs -- both physical and spiritual --, not to your desires. Can you affirmatively answer that now is the time to be making major decisions that will affect not only you but the young souls who will be your wards and responsibility?

I'm not saying this is what you're doing, but sometimes people when they are at an impasse in life, when their walk has taken them someplace that confuses them, decide that children may be an answer; to prop up a failing marriage, to give a lonely young girl's life meaning, to continue a family name, to leave a mark, or to turn back the clock and achieve through the child what we think we've failed to achieve in our life. The child then becomes a tool used for the parents' purposes, rather than nurtured and celebrated for itself, as a unique creation of God.

Are you sure you're ready to bring a child into the world for God's purposes, rather than your own? These are the kind of questions you need to seek guidance for, either in prayer or by seeking the direction of a pastor, a shepherd (1 Peter 5:5), who knows you and knows God.
posted by orthogonality at 8:23 AM on February 8, 2010 [8 favorites]

Mod note: comment removed - question is already metafilter-touchy as it is. please take derails, if needed, to metatalk.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:56 AM on February 8, 2010

I'm going to suggest a different angle. The problem with taking this sort of guidance straight from the Bible is evident in some of the responses above, I think. Half of the verses quoted above come from the same books that prohibit the consumption of shellfish. Even well-intended literalist Christians pay little attention to the vast majority of those moral proclamations.

This is not a knock on the Old Testament at all . . . however, one of the things the Bible as a whole doesn't do so well is give us direct instruction about things that wouldn't exist for thousands of years. (One might ask if seeking advice on the ethics of IUI from the Internet is allowed by Scripture as well. . . but there is no answer.)

I would suggest that as a Christian, all you have to go on is your understanding of Christ's example, and your conscience. Maybe look to those aspects of the Gospels that discuss family relationships and the overall human role in creation - both as a process and as a more abstract concept.

As an aside, and going back to the OT - there are in fact a handful of verses which suggest that where it is necessary or otherwise merited, a wide range of family structures are considered good in God's eyes. Look no further than Sara and Abraham, whose child was born of their servant.
posted by kensington314 at 9:14 AM on February 8, 2010

The bible won't have a lot to say about donor sperm specifically, since that's a procedure that really became available in a post-biblical era. But there are several incidences in which people pursued parenthood in the absence of a fertile partner. There's the story of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar; Sarah was barren, and so she told Abraham to conceive a child with Hagar. The words used in the New International Version are "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.' Abram agreed to what Sarai said." (Gen 16:2) Sarah is clearly considering that Hagar will be a gestational surrogate here, not that the child will be born of an adulterous union. And while she has some emotional difficulties with the situation, Ishmael (Abraham's son through Hagar) was blessed: "And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation." (Gen 17:20) God would not have done that if God disapproved of surrogacy.

Lot's daughters, as well, were faced with the necessity of preserving their family in the absence of a husband or a mother. They committed incest, violating one of the primal taboos, in order to follow the command to be fruitful and multiply. They each bore sons; the sons became the founders of nations. Again, that's not the fate of someone who has transgressed.

And perhaps the most blatant and direct allusion to donor sperm is in the story of Onan, in Genesis 38. Tamar was widowed without children, and so her father-in-law told her late husband's brother to conceive a child with her, "to produce offspring for your brother." When Onan refused this order, God put him to death.

In all of these stories, one common thread emerges: Marriage is important to God, but children are more important. In circumstances where a surrogate or donor is used, the children are considered not those of the surrogate or donor, but of the child's actual parents. Children conceived of these arrangements, and their families, are considered holy and blessed in God's eyes. I don't know if you can get a clearer go-ahead than that.
posted by KathrynT at 11:19 AM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

The OP is Christian. The Old Testament obviously is pre-Christian. Singles are allowed to adopt in some cases. Endless wars, and the earthquake in Haiti, have created a wealth of orphans in the world. Instead of giving birth to a fatherless child, why not rescue a motherless child?
posted by Cranberry at 12:37 PM on February 8, 2010

Cranberry, Christians still have the "Old Testament" in their bibles and many consider it to be part of their own religion and use it to gain insight into their own religious traditions.

In addition, that motherless child will still be fatherless--which is your argument against giving birth.
posted by autoclavicle at 1:40 PM on February 8, 2010

Because, Cranberry, adoption presents hurdles, risks, and costs that giving birth does not. She elucidated many of these in the OP.
posted by KathrynT at 2:07 PM on February 8, 2010

Also, to address Cranberry, the family status of children in international adoption is not always clear, there is often a lack of transparency in international adoptions, and many question the ethics of "rescuing" a child rather than supporting their families and communities to allow them to stay with their family of origin. I know this doesn't address the OP's original question exactly, but as someone who will need to choose between adoption and surrogacy to have a family, my hackles are raised by "save the children" arguments which do nothing to help a person decide how to have a family and fail to take into consideration the implications of international adoption for the children, families, and communities involved.
posted by Felicity Rilke at 3:51 PM on February 8, 2010 [3 favorites]

The author of this essay, Julia Duin, may be helpful to you. I think it would be wise to rely less on outsiders' opinions (pro or con, Bible-based or personal opinion) of your situation and focus on tracking down women who have been in your position, serious Christians contemplating single motherhood by choice.

I think that it's easy and natural to want direct scripture references to inform your choices regarding complex, modern issues. However, if you aligned your life literally with some of the ancient and community-specific family patterns in the Bible--being someone's second wife and sharing your husband with your sister, having sex with your father to carry on your family line, asking your husband to impregnate your servant when you can't conceive, staying single (and presumably childless) for life if you were single when you converted--your modern Christian peers would likely criticize your choices. Obviously I've chosen the Old Testament examples intentionally for shock value, but the fact that it's a shocking part of the Bible doesn't negate the fact that it's in the book along with the parts that are easier to stomach and comprehend.

I'd urge you to find people like the author I linked above, a community of people who both adhere to the same faith as you and feel empowered to make the type of choice you're considering. I assume, based on your wording and emphasis on scripture, that your beliefs fall somewhere in the conservative/Evangelical neighborhood. If you take random samples of opinion within that community, you're likely to come up with people voicing opinions like this author's. The Evangelical authors who tend to write about family life and nontraditional ways individuals or couples might have children--single adoption, IVF, surrogacy, etc.--are, in my experience, middle-aged married people opining about issues they haven't faced in a personal way. I don't know how much thoughtful, supportive guidance you'll be able to get from that type of source.
posted by Meg_Murry at 5:22 PM on February 8, 2010

jessamyn:follow-up from the OP
Lately the previous church has been rejecting most things to an extreme even more than before. By that I mean even a Christian artist played on a non Christian channel was looked down on when I was younger, there has been pyramid schemes, favoritism among members and it hasn't gotten any better. I'm not sure it would do anything more than confuse and convict me even more for even thinking this way.
Please, be very very careful. That's how it started out in my church and it ended up being spiritually abusive, and I was so emotionally damaged that I needed more than 2 years of therapy as a result. Maybe this isn't the sort of thing you should ask them about. Really, this decision isn't your church's business, no matter how close you are with them. Just like it's no one's business if a woman's child of a different skin color is biracial or adopted, or if a woman's twins/multiples were natural or IVF. It's between you, your God, and your future child.

The only other advice I have is be sure to have a good support system in place. Pregnancy can be scary, it and the postpartum time can really mess with your hormones, and caring for a newborn is stressful. Make sure you have plenty of family and friends to help you out.
posted by IndigoRain at 6:12 PM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think you need to consider that you will be bearing a child as a single parent in a community that strongly disapproves of that. No matter how many times you tell people you used sperm donor, some will chose not to believe you and to stigmatize you as a 'ho (fine you can deal) and your child as whatever it is they call bastard kids these days. So, if you really want to do this, you need to reconcile it with your choice to be whatever it is that you mean by Christian* and you need to not subject the child to people who will judge it from birth.

*I don't say that to disparage your beliefs but because it seems to me that the term can mean just about anything in America these days.
posted by fshgrl at 10:23 PM on February 8, 2010

The OP is Christian. The Old Testament obviously is pre-Christian.

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven." (Mark 5)

OP, I cited Christ's words above to address Cranberry's thoughts on the Old Testament, but I want to draw your attention to the last verse: "unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law...". Think about that for a minute.

Who was more righteous than them? If Christ came in our day and age, it would essentially be "unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Priests and Ministers of the church." I don't know about you, but I didn't go to no seminary - I'm your average run-of-the-mill white-collar metafilter-reading Obama-supporting American Christian (if there is such an average). How the hell can I hope that I'm gonna be more righteous than the leaders of the Christian church in my day and age?

I can't. But I think that's what Christ was getting at - we needed a righteousness that we couldn't even really hope to obtain. One that not even the Pharisees and teachers of the law could hope to obtain themselves. By now you probably see where I'm going - its the righteousness Christ came to be for me, in his death on the cross. That's the one that saves me.

I don't use this as an excuse to do whatever I want - sin recklessly, etc. - instead I think of it as the core motivating factor for me to respond in joy and love by reaching out to the world around me in the same way Christ did. Really, if you think about it, it is the least you can do. You can stop hating people with other world-views or doctrines and instead try to understand them. You can stop judging people who make life decisions that seem radically different to yours and instead deal with the realities that you can't change - and find ways to be kind to them anyway. You can say "no" to a life of rich extravagance, and instead reach out to and care for the poor, the alien, the widows, and the orphans - those who Christ was most concerned about.

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." (James 5:17)

I think, when I hear you yearning for Scriptural guidance here (a good thing), and so many rightly pointing out that you won't find it in very direct form, the best thing you can do is look to Jesus' example, perhaps best displayed in this story:

But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?" They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"

"No one, sir," she said.

"Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin." (John 8)

To me, this is one of the most remarkable and poignant stories in all of scripture, as simple as it may seem. If you decide to go your route, so be it, but I feel its only fair to warn you, as you already seem to worry about somewhat implicitly, that you will be judged by the Christians around you in your life (unless you happen to be surrounded solely by much better Christians than me, which I can only pray is the case). The fact is, they are Christians, but they are also human, which means they are born into sin and remain in it. None of them can, when brought to the final reality of the situation, throw the first stone at you.

I realize I'm perhaps being vague and maybe not giving you the hard answer you're looking for, but I hope in a way you can find something even better than that - the freedom of knowing that no matter what you decide, and no matter what the people around you say or do about it, in the end, Christ will still be there, and he will ask who remains sinless and able to condemn you. And there won't be anyone. The really amazing thing is that the only person in the story who could condemn the woman from his platform of sinless holiness was Jesus himself.

Anyway, I hope some of that can be of some comfort to you at what must be a difficult time. FWIW, from what I've seen of the world in my limited years has been that we're straining greatly on the world's resources already with our ballooning population, and there are billions of "haves" and greater billions of "have nots." There are so many unwanted children in so many sad, poor corners of the world. Its amazing to think the literally miraculous change that you could bring in even one child's life through adoption. And I don't say that to disparage you in any way from the alternative you are considering, but just to arrive at a simple point: I don't know, and I don't think you can find in the Bible, whether sperm donation could concretely constitute a sin. I do believe, however, that you'd be damn hard-pressed to ever prove that caring for an orphan through adoption is anything but the complete opposite of sin: righteousness (perhaps) exceeding that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law.

God bless you.
posted by allkindsoftime at 6:49 AM on February 9, 2010

This is a situation which the pastor of my church would describe as "wrestling with God". You can wrestle all you want, but eventually you need to open yourself up to God or give yourself over to Him for your answer. At least that's my interpretation of the pastor's words.

In that vein, you are looking for input and experience from us to help with your wrestling. Many suggest that you should get input from someone who you would trust (family, priest, friend). I think that's a very good thing. Eventually you will trust in yourself and your own decision.

As to Deuteronomy 23:2, there's an interesting interpretation of it here. There is a distinct difference between Christian acceptance of "old law" and "new law".
posted by plinth at 9:09 AM on February 9, 2010

With regard to artificial insemination, this is an applicable verse:

Leviticus 18:20 - “You must not give your emission as semen to the wife of your associate to become unclean by it.”
posted by Danila at 8:25 PM on February 9, 2010

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