When you first hear that a man in the United Arab Emirates is suing his ex-wife for “getting pregnant without his consent,” you might feel a little defensive of the female in question. After all, a woman shouldn’t need anyone’s permission to get pregnant if she chooses to. And when a man decides to sleep with a woman, he is automatically giving his approval to the idea of her getting pregnant. However, once we get into the realm of fertility clinics, consent gets a little more difficult to judge. In this case, I think it’s the man who is standing on moral high ground.
A man and his wife were trying to get pregnant for four years. After all that time and no baby, they went to a fertility clinic to seek assistance. There, the doctors performed two IUIs, neither of which were successful. At this point, the couple stopped seeking treatment together.
First, the wife went back to Russia, where she was from. Then, she returned to UAE on her own. Without her husband’s knowledge, she went back to the fertility clinic and attempted artificial insemination one last time. Three weeks later, the couple officially divorced, but the husband had no idea that his wife was now pregnant with the couple’s first daughter.
The ex-husband at this point, while saying that he loves his daughter and wants to take care of her, is suing his ex-wife and the fertility clinic. Lower courts determined that since the man had previously given his consent to his sperm’s usage, there was no legal grounds to punish those who used it without his knowledge. The man has appealed that initial ruling.
I have to say that personally, I side with the father in this circumstance. Giving permission for your sperm to be used while your relationship is healthy does not mean giving consent forever. Having sex with a man once doesn’t allow me access to his sperm for the rest of my life. It doesn’t mean that I can later decide I want to get pregnant by him, after our relationship ended.
I realize that the case happened in another country, but I think it brings up important questions about ethical practices in fertility clinics that might need to be addressed here in the United States. After all, struggling with infertility is accepted to be a huge strain on relationships and marriages. It’s completely possible that a couple who were ready to try IUI or IVF once is no longer together a year later. That wife shouldn’t be allowed to use her husband’s sperm after their relationship ends without his input.
Let’s face it, a husband donating sperm so that his wife can get pregnant is not like a man choosing to donate sperm to an anonymous stranger. For one thing, a woman using a sperm donor waives that man’s responsibility to care for the child. For another, the sperm donor could go on to be unknown for the rest of the child’s life. An ex-husband who believes he’s bringing a child into his marriage donates under completely different circumstances than an anonymous donor. And that partner deserves the opportunity to give consent each time an attempt is made to get pregnant.
I’m not sure if the man in this situation has a case. I’m not sure what retribution will make him feel better about anything. But I believe that regulations should be put in place so that such an occurrence doesn’t happen again.