Lesbian Access to
MARY ANNE COFFEY
Although donor insemination is essentially a simple procedure that has been medicalized, little is known about DI outside medical settings, and even less has been documented. The aura of secrecy that surrounds the medical practice of insemination has served to hide the evidence of male infertility in heterosexual couples and to limit public discussion of its important social and political ramifications. The tendency toward secrecy, and the widespread cultural preference for heterosexual couples as the ideal parental configuration for assisted reproduction, have meant that for lesbians (and single heterosexual women), access to DI through Westernized medical channels is extremely limited or nonexistent. For the same reasons, self-insemination has been a virtually invisible method of conception but one practiced increasingly by single women of heterosexual and lesbian persuasion (at least those living in Western liberal democracies).
The initial association of DI with medical practice and the married state continues and has influenced the formulation of criteria for the evaluation of recipients. As might be expected, these criteria tend to reduce or eliminate the chances of insemination for women who are not linked through a marital or common-law union to an infertile male partner. In the literature on single motherhood by choice (including DI as one reproductive option), the term "single women" includes a number of disparate groups, making meaningful comparison of research findings difficult. "Single" is commonly used to denote unmarried, never-married, sepa-