Though artificial insemination has been practiced for over a century and has been readily obtainable through medical channels since the 1930s, its use did not become a social policy issue until after World War II. Few oppose the technique itself, except religious groups that object to masturbation or noncoital reproduction, but these opponents sometimes permit the practice if a permeable condom is used to collect semen. Artificial insemination by husband (AIH) is seldom regarded as a social policy issue. Public controversy has centered predominantly on donor insemination (DI). Even though DI is often used in combination with other conceptive technologies, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), a few countries (e.g., Brazil, Egypt, and Libya) prohibit DI but allow and may even encourage IVF. Many countries permitting DI impose restrictions on medical practitioners, donors, and recipients.
The practice gives rise to a tangle of legal problems about adultery, bloodlines, legitimacy, and the assignment of rights and duties to donors, recipients, and progeny. The position of the medical practitioner as intermediary raises additional policy issues: the permissible scope of physician discretion in selecting and screening donors and recipients and the use of eugenic criteria in pairing them. A third set of issues that has recently come under increased public scrutiny pertains to the widespread